Graham Ivan Clark, a 17-year-old Tampa high school graduate, was arrested Friday for his alleged role in the massive Twitter hack on July 15. Clark and two others allegedly gained access to the accounts of Bill Gates, Kim Kardashian, President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and many other celebrities, asking their followers to make donations through Bitcoin. The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office said Clark took in over $100,000 in Bitcoin in one day.
Clark was arrested Thursday at his Tampa apartment. "He’s a 17-year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school," Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren said Friday, reports the Tampa Bay Times. "But no make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before." Clark committed his crime in Tampa and will be prosecuted in Florida. He was charged with one count of organized fraud of over $50,000; 17 counts of felony communications fraud; one count of aggravated identity theft; 10 hounds of identity theft and one count for hacking and unlawful access in a scam to defraud.
According to Warren, Clark compromised a Twitter employee and gained access to Twitter's internal controls. He then sold access to the verified accounts, which he used to ask people to send him money as Bitcoin and in return, he would send them back twice as much. He never sent back the money though, prosecutors said. Warren called it a "massive fraud orchestrated right here in our own back yard."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California announced charges against Mason Sheppard, a 19-year-old living in the U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, for their alleged roles in the scam. Sheppard was charged with "conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer" and Fazeli was charged with "aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer." Both were charged in the Northern District of California. San Francisco FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett said it only took "a matter of weeks" for their investigators to locate the suspects.
More than 100 Twitter accounts were compromised, including those belonging to Kanye West, Elon Musk, Wiz Khalifa, Floyd Mayweather, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet. Some accounts belonged to brands, including Apple and Uber. The accounts published similar messages like, "I am giving back to the community. All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes ... Enjoy!"
Twitter launched an internal investigation into the situation and temporarily froze all verified accounts on the day of the attack. In its latest update on Thursday, the company said they have "significantly limited access to our internal tools and systems to ensure ongoing account security while we complete our investigation." Twitter believes the attackers "successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems, including getting through our two-factor protections."