Police bust a massive interstate SIM card hijacking ring

Krebs on Security has reported that Florida law enforcement have arrested a man accused of being part of an interstate cybercrime ring that used hijacked phone numbers and SIM cards to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies and cash.

On July 18, Ricky Joseph Handschumacher was arrested in Pasco County, Florida, and charged with grand theft and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty, though he has admitted to being part of the organization.

While Handschumacher was arrested in Flordia, the first break in this case occurred in Michigan. In February of this year, a mother called the police when she heard her son talking on the phone and pretending to work for AT&T. Upon responding to the report, police found numerous cell phones and SIM cards, as well as computer files that contained “an extensive list of names and phone numbers of people from around the world.”

In March, police followed up on their investigation and discovered the same person using a library’s public Wi-Fi to access personal data. From there, the police seized several dozen SIM cards, a computer, and a Trezor Wallet. The next month, the son’s mother called the police again, saying that her son had gotten another cell phone. After obtaining permission to search the young man’s room, the police found an extensive collection of SIM cards, cell phones, and forged documents.

The police used the forged documents to contact some of the victims of this crime. Three of the victims reported that, together, they had lost roughly $350,000 in various cryptocurrencies. However, that was only the beginning as follow-up investigations revealed that this ring extended far beyond Michigan. The group, which reportedly consists of at least nine people, was spread across multiple states. They made use of Discord and Telegram to plan their heists.

The group’s biggest score, that authorities know of, came in May of this year when members worked together to steal 57 Bitcoins from a single victim. The value of Bitcoin tends to fluctuate, but at the time, the 57 Bitcoins were worth almost $470,000.

While the group’s heist of 57 Bitcoins was a large one, their ambitions were set even higher. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement allegedly uncovered the group discussing their plans to hack the CEO of Gemini Trust Company, a cryptocurrency exchange.

As for Handschumacher, Discord appears to be his undoing. The efforts of law enforcement officers in Michigan allowed the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to obtain a warrant to monitor the group’s Discord chat. From there, they allegedly saw that Handschumacher was bragging about the group’s success and using his share of the earnings to buy a host of expensive items including a new house and real estate.

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