June 21, 2024

FTX lost $400m worth of crypto due to SIM-swap attack, DOJ says

Prosecutors say the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX lost over $400m in crypto due to a SIM-swap hack orchestrated by three individuals.

Crypto exchange FTX lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of crypto shortly after filing for bankruptcy due to a SIM-swap attack, Bloomberg has learned, citing an indictment filed in federal court in Washington by the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to prosecutors, three individuals —Robert Powell, Emily Hernandez, and Carter Rohn — participated in a SIM-swapping ring targeting FTX for two years. The indictment alleges that the trio gathered personal data from numerous victims, leveraging this information to persuade cell phone providers to transfer the victims’ phone numbers to a fraudulent device under their control. Subsequently, the group could intercept text messages, including multifactor authentication codes.

While the indictment did not explicitly name FTX, sources familiar with the case confirmed that “victim company-1” in the court filings indeed referred to the notorious crypto exchange. Prosecutors detail that on Nov. 11, 2022, Emily Hernandez used a fake ID containing details of an FTX employee to convince AT&T to transfer the mobile phone account to a different SIM card.

Robert Powell —also known by online aliases as ‘R$’ and ‘ElSwapo1’ — then attempted various authentication codes to gain access to FTX’s cryptocurrency wallets. The trio faces charges related to fraud and identity theft.

FTX made headlines in November 2022 when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, revealing an $8 billion shortfall in the exchange’s accounts, culminating in its formal declaration of bankruptcy. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, now confronts potential imprisonment of up to 100 years on multiple charges.

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