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California man must pay $61K for SIM swap scam that stole crypto

The scheme duped Apple and at least forty individuals.

The U.S. Department of Justice stated on Wednesday that a California man must pay over $61,000 in restitution and receive three years of probation for his role in a SIM swap scheme that targeted at least 40 individuals and robbed one victim of more than $57,000 in cryptocurrency.

After getting access to various crypto accounts, Richard Yuan Li and co-conspirators stole crypto from an unnamed New Orleans physician. Richard Yuan Li was charged with one count of conspiracy to conduct felony wire fraud. Among others, the victim held accounts with Binance, Bittrex, Coinbase, Gemini, and Poloniex. One conspirator at one point sought to extort 100 bitcoin from the victim.

Li, age 21, was sentenced by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. According to prosecutors, Li's acts constituted federal offences since the SIM swaps broadcast signals over state lines and were therefore subject to the interstate commerce clause of the United States Constitution. Additionally, Li must do 100 hours of community service.

A SIM switch scam comprises the illicit purchase of a mobile phone and the subsequent redirection of incoming calls and messages to another phone. Scammers are then able to obtain personal financial information, such as bank and cryptocurrency accounts, along with other accounts using two-factor authentication.

Li and his co-conspirators deceived an Apple salesperson into mailing them an iPhone 8, "organised for victims' telephone numbers to be changed" to that phone, and then circumvented their target's security to obtain access to data.

From July 2018 to December 2018, LI engaged in at least 40 illicit SIM Swaps, according to a statement issued by authorities.

On November 10, 2018, the physician's phone number was transferred to the iPhone 8 that LI kept at his California university dorm room.

A subsequent SIM Swap involving a different victim on December 4, 2018 resulted in the loss of about $4,000 in an unidentified currency.



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