A former telephone company employee has been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for allegedly using his access to customer account information to take over the phone numbers of 19 customers, including at least one cryptocurrency holder.
Stephen Daniel DeFiore of Brandon, Florida, received approximately $2,325 between Oct. 20, 2018 and Nov. 9, 2018 in exchange for swapping the targeted customers’ SIM cards with those of a co-conspirator, New Orleans prosecutors said earlier this week. . For each SIM swap, the co-conspirator sent the customer’s phone number, a four-digit PIN and a SIM card number that that phone number would be swapped to, prosecutors said.
The charges come eight months after federal prosecutors charged Richard Yuan Li of Hercules, California, with conspiracy to commit fraud for his alleged role in a SIM swap scam that targeted at least 20 people. Li was in possession of an iPhone 8 to which the number of at least one of DeFiore’s victims had been forwarded, prosecutors said.
The alleged victim was a doctor from the New Orleans area with cryptocurrency accounts on exchanges including Binance, Bittrex, Coinbase, Gemini, Poloniex, ItBit and Neo Wallet. Li and his co-conspirators went on to gain access to the doctor’s email and cryptocurrency accounts and stole a “significant portion” of the victim’s belongings.
Prosecutors further alleged that even after the doctor recovered the phone account, Li or one of his co-conspirators called the doctor to say he had viewed images in the doctor’s Gmail account and funds in the doctor’s cryptocurrency accounts. doctor. The caller then demanded 100 bitcoins, worth about $640,000 at the time, in exchange for not publishing the photos or stealing the cryptocurrency.
Prosecutors have not identified the phone company DeFiore worked for, but this LinkedIn profile lists a Stephen DiFiore who works as a Verizon customer service representative in Brandon, Florida. Verizon representatives did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment for this story. Attempts to reach DeFiore were unsuccessful.
This week’s charges come as so-called SIM-swapping crimes continue to spread, motivated largely by criminals’ attempts to obtain large amounts of cryptocurrency in online accounts. Once an offender gains control over victims’ phone accounts, the offender usually uses that access to complete resetting accounts for email accounts and from there reset passwords for other accounts.
If convicted, DeFiore faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Earlier this week, European officials announced the arrests of 10 people in connection with a series of SIM-swapping attacks that raised more than $100 million.