An American teenager has been sentenced to three years in prison for a hack of the Twitter accounts of high profile celebrities and public figures last year.
A Florida teenager, Graham Ivan Clark, was 17 years old last August when pleaded not guilty to charges that he organised the Twitter hack in July 2020, that resulted in Twitter accounts of public figures and corporations including Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, tweeting a bitcoin scam that offered to double people’s bitcoin payment.
Once he accessed those accounts, Clark tweeted a link to a bitcoin address and wrote “all bitcoin sent to our address below will be sent back to you doubled!”
The hack saw a man in the UK also being arrested as part of the criminal investigation. Mason Sheppard, 19, in Bognor Regis was named at the UK citizen arrested, as was American Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando.
Clark was able to access the accounts after convincing an employee at Twitter he worked in the company’s information technology department, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Twitter at the time confirmed that the hackers had targeted a small number of its staff through a phone “spear phishing” attack.
Twitter said it had taken “significant steps” to limit access to account management tools while the company’s investigation continued.
And on Tuesday this week Clark changed his not guilty plea, and instead pleaded guilty to state charges in exchange for a three-year prison sentence.
In a deal with prosecutors, Graham Ivan Clark agreed to serve three years in prison, followed by three years probation, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Clark is now 18 years old, and the agreement means that Clark can be sentenced as a “youthful offender,” avoiding a minimum 10-year sentence that would have followed if he’d been convicted as an adult.
The mandatory minimum will only apply if Clark violates his probation.
He will serve time in a state prison designated for young adults, the newspaper reported. He may be eligible to serve some of his time in a military-style boot camp.
“Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren reportedly said in a statement. “In this case, we’ve been able to deliver those consequences while recognizing that our goal with any child, whenever possible, is to have them learn their lesson without destroying their future.”
Clark appeared in a virtual court hearing Tuesday afternoon from the Hillsborough County jail, where he has been detained since his arrest.
As part of the deal with state officials, Clark will also be barred from using computers without permission and supervision from law enforcement.
He will have to submit to searches of his property and give up the passwords to any accounts he controls.
His defence attorney, David Weisbrod, reportedly confirmed that Clark had turned over all the cryptocurrency he had acquired.