Spain’s National Court agrees to extradite 23-year-old British man to US over 2020 hack of celebrity Twitter accounts
Spain’s National Court has agreed to the extradition of a British citizen accused of involvement in a 2020 hack in which the Twitter accounts of a number prominent figures were simultaneously hijacked and used to promote a cryptocurrency scam.
Joseph James O’Connor, from Liverpool, was arrested in July 2021 in the southern Spanish city of Estepona.
The court said the US was in a better position to prosecute because the evidence in the investigation had been obtained there as well as the damage caused.
It rejected the argument of O’Connor’s attorney that he should be tried in Spain as the servers he used were based there.
The July 2020 hack affected the Twitter accounts of public figures including then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, as well as former president Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jeff Bezos and Kanye West, among others.
US authorities have a list of 14 charges against O’Connor, including allegations of membership of a criminal gang, illegal access to computer systems, internet fraud, money laundering and extortion.
A court statement said O’Connor is wanted by courts in the Northern District of California and the Southern District of New York.
The National Court said O’Connor, 23, is also suspected of hacking the Snapchat account of an unnamed public figure and threatening to publish naked pictures of the person unless given financial compensation.
Florida teen mastermind
He is also wanted for several cases of “swatting”, making malicious emergency services calls to falsely direct police to raid various locations.
The Spanish government must still approve the decision, and O’Connor – also known as “Plugwalk Joe” – can appeal.
In 2021 a Florida teenager accused of masterminding the hacks was sentenced by a US court to three years in juvenile prison.