A 21-year old American has been accused of stealing millions of dollars in crypto via a method known as SIM swapping, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph Jan. 17.
As reported, plaintiff Michael Terpin — a long-time blockchain and crypto investor — first filed a lawsuit against AT&T last August, accusing the firm of negligence that allegedly allowed the suspect to gain control over Terpin’s phone number and steal almost $24 million worth of crypto.
SIM-swapping — also known as a “port-out scam” — involves the theft of a cell phone number in order to hijack online financial and social media accounts, enabled by the fact that many firms use automated messages or phone calls to handle customer authentication.
According to Terpin's declaration, which was filed with the United States District Court in Los Angeles on Dec. 31, 2018, Terpin and his legal team allege they have identified the primary suspect who initiated the SIM swap — 21-year old New Yorker Nicholas Truglia.
The suspect has previously been arrested on a separate SIM swap-related criminal charges involving the alleged theft of $1 million in crypto from Silicon Valley executives in the Bay Area. According to Terpin’s lawsuit against Truglia, filed Dec. 28, 2018, Truglia is currently incarcerated in Santa Clara County, California, in connection with this prior case.
The lawsuit alleges that Truglia, alongside a host of alleged accomplices, perpetrated the SIM swap against Terpin on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, 2018, resulting in crypto losses estimated to be worth $23.8 million.
Amongst the evidence presented in the lawsuit are statements and text messages purportedly sent by Truglia on the date of the Terpin SIM swap, in which he is alleged to have explicitly told friends that he had stolen a cryptocurrency wallet with holdings worth $20 million.
In one purported text message, he texted an individual allegedly boasting “I’m a millionaire. I’m not kidding. I have 100 Bitcoin.” He is also alleged to have confessed to friends that the Terpin heist was his largest, deeming that day to be when “his life changed forever.” The lawsuit claims Truglia is estimated to have total stolen assets worth in excess of $80 million.
Terpin’s complaint notably includes charges against Truglia and his alleged accomplices under the The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act , which seeks penalties for the perpetration of repeated, organized criminal acts committed through mutual assistance, as part of a criminal organization.
As emphasized in the press release, the new criminal charges do not affect or diminish the lawsuit against AT&T, which will reportedly only be affected if any recovery from the alleged criminals will reduce primary damages accordingly. Terpin was moreover immediately granted a writ of attachment against up to $24 million of Truglia's assets on the date of the lawsuit’s filing.
SIM-swapping has become an increasing concern for law enforcement, and has accordingly brought telecoms firms — gatekeepers of user identity data — under the spotlight for their alleged complicity in the crime. Last summer, Cointelegraph interviewed Terpin, who remarked that the biggest risk to crypto investors “is that major phone companies promise you security and don't deliver it.”