10 Years: Santa Clara Judge Passes the First SIM Swapping Sentence in America

A Santa Clara judge has sentenced a college student to 10 years in prison after he was found guilty of stealing millions in crypto assets through SIM swapping.

In what’s seen as the first official conviction of a crypto SIM swapping scam in the United States, Joel Ortiz, a 21-year-old student of the University of Massachusetts, was giving a 10 year prison sentence by Judge Edward Lee of the Santa Clara County’s District Attorney’s Office.

Jail

Ortiz was described as being a “prolific” SIM swapping scammer, whose judgment highlights an individual scam carried out by Ortiz, where he stole $5.2 million from an unnamed cryptocurrency investor from California.

The Magic of SIM Swapping

SIM swapping might be a new and relatively unpopular trend amongst crypto scammers, but as is with the case of Ortiz, it does have a potential to be quite lucrative. Primarily, the entire operation relies on the perpetrator’s convincing and manipulation techniques.

The hacker contacts the telecoms provider of the target victim’s SIM card and using the personal details he has about the target, will persuade the telecom operators to transfer the victim’s number from the current SIM to a separate one in the criminal’s possession.

Upon the successful SIM transfer operation, the service provider will send saved financial and Internet-related passwords to the new SIM card. This could include two-factor authentication entries, wallet passwords, verification codes, and much more.

Information stored on high-security and high-traffic domains, such as Email addresses, social media accounts, and cryptocurrency exchange accounts and wallets, are usually the targets of SIM swappers. Ortiz was charged in Santa Clara back in 2018 on 28 counts of alleged violations, including multiple computer-related violations and crimes associated with information law.

At the time, a police report revealed that he had duped over 20 people, with a lot of just over $5 million in digital assets.

He was eventually sentenced to 10 years in jail on February 1, although formal sentencing was just being set at the time.

Another Sim Swapper awaiting Trial

While Ortiz is the first SIM swapping sentencing to be formally carried out in the United States, he’s not the only person to be charged for the crime.

A document published on the Manhattan District Attorney’s website describes the case of Dawson Bakies, a 20-year-old tech whiz from Columbus, Ohio, who used the same SIM swapping technique to defraud multiple people off thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies.

According to the details of the document, a grand jury in the state of New York had charged Bakies with a 52-count charge, including but not limited to identity theft, grand larceny, and computer tampering. The indictment alleges that Bakies targeted over 50 victims across the country, all of whom weren’t chosen at random.

Speaking on Bakies’ charge, Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, said:

“Today, my office is putting the small handful of sophisticated ‘SIM Swappers’ out there on notice. We know what you’re doing, we know how to find you, and we will hold you criminally accountable, no matter where you are.”

Amongst many of the allegations leveled against Bakies, he was said to have stolen about $10,000 in cryptocurrencies from three Manhattan residents. However, a report by the New York Post alleges that his entire scam operation, which ran for no more than ten days, raked in about $500,000.

Local law enforcement found a personal computer and an iPhone, which contained multiple password recovery messages, during a raid of his apartment last year. While digging through his laptop’s hard drive, investigators discovered a file, titled “Hacker Shit,” which included the names of people he already attacked- as well as the three aforementioned Manhattan residents.

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