How the scheme worked
Beginning in 2017 and through May 2018 in Michigan, a group of people known to investigators as “The Community” conspired to use “SIM hijacking” or “SIM swapping” to steal cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum, according to federal officials.
CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A juvenile in Canton Township and six other men have been identified as members of “The Community,” an international group that hacks into people’s cellphones — often bribing or tricking mobile phone companies — to steal millions of dollars in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, officials said.
Members of The Community would get control of a person’s cellphone number by linking it to a subscriber identity module (SIM) card under The Community’s control, authorities said.
The victim’s phone calls and messages would be routed to a device controlled by someone in The Community, according to court records.
When The Community got control of someone’s phone number, they could use it to access online accounts such as email, cloud storage and cryptocurrency exchange accounts, court documents show.
Once they gained control of someone’s cryptocurrency wallet or online exchange account, members of The Community could steal the funds, officials said.
Stolen funds from an attack were divided among the members of The Community who participated in that attack, according to authorities.
Member of ‘The Community’ identified
In March 2018, officers at the Canton Police Department alerted Homeland Security about a person involved in a complex SIM-swapping scheme, court records show.
HSI Detroit launched an investigation into The Community and identified a participant in the scheme. On May 9, 2019, authorities said they executed a search warrant at the house and seized a Trezor device, or Bitcoin hardware wallet. Trezor devices are used to store cryptocurrency. This device had about 60.20371501 Bitcoins — valued at around $629,854, according to the complaint.
At the time of the search warrant, the owner of the Trezor device was a juvenile, according to officials. Authorities believe the Bitcoins on the Trezor device was obtained through The Community’s wire fraud conspiracy. The juvenile had earned more than $1 million worth of cryptocurrency as a result of his fraudulent activity with the group, according to court documents.
Juvenile speaks with officials
On Aug. 22, 2019, the juvenile appeared for an interview with Homeland Security at his attorney’s office and voluntarily provided the PIN code for his Trezor device, according to authorities. He described being involved in about 50 SIM swaps between October 2017 and February 2018 with three men named Colton Jurisic, Ricky Handschumacher and Conor Freeman, as well as others, court records show.
The juvenile told authorities that he, Jurisic and Freeman were involved in a May 2018 SIM swap that resulted in the theft of about $160,000 worth of cryptocurrency. He said a second SIM swap with Jurisic, Handschumacher and Freeman netted them about $6 million worth of cryptocurrency, court records show.
The juvenile entered into an agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office consenting to the civil judicial forfeiture of the Bitcoins, according to officials. 6 men named in federal indictment
Jurisic, Handschumacher and Freeman are three of six men named in a federal indictment against The Community. The others are Reyad Gafar Abbas, Garrett Endicott and Ryan Stevenson.
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