FRAUD DETECTIVES MAKE MAJOR BUST IN MULTINATIONAL HACKING GROUP LINKED TO CRYPTOCURRENCY
On Thursday May 9, 2019, as a result of a lengthy investigation, Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau, in conjunction with Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents, arrested a suspect indicted on conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and identity theft charges. Reyad Gafar Abbas, 19, was one of nine individuals indicted as part of a multinational hacking group known as “The Community.” The hacking group used a technique called “SIM Swapping” or “SIM Hijacking” to gain control of their victim’s mobile phone. This allowed the hackers to access the victim’s cryptocurrency wallet or cryptocurrency exchange accounts and steal the victim’s funds. The total known loss in cryptocurrency is valued at approximately $2.4 million.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation was initiated in February of 2018, when a citizen of West Hollywood reported being a victim of a large cryptocurrency theft. Sheriff’s Department cybercrime investigators used advanced investigative techniques both in cyber space and on the streets which subsequently led to the identification of the suspect, Reyad Gafar Abbas of Rochester, New York. Deputies traveled to Rochester, and with the assistance of the New York State Patrol, served a search warrant at Abbas’ residence. Digital evidence was obtained as a result of the warrant which showed communications between Abbas and his co-conspirators regarding potential victims and hacking methods.
As the investigation continued, it was discovered that Abbas was part of a hacker group called “The Community.” Coordination among several state, local and federal law enforcement agencies uncovered the scale of “The Community” criminal scheme and ultimately led to the nine arrests.
As technology advances and citizens gain access to more sophisticated devices such as smart phones, it is important to practice sound cyber security. Use two factor identification on your accounts, make sure your passwords are unique and complex and do not give out your personal information over the phone or via email unless you have verified the legitimacy of the recipient. As cybercrime becomes more prevalent, it is important to report it to your local law enforcement agency if you become a victim.