Case Review: The COVID Bitcoin Scammers

On July 31st, 2020, 17-year old Graham Clark, 22-year old Nima Fazeli and 19-year old Mason Sheppard was arrested for an elaborate Bitcoin scheme. Clark pretended to work for Twitter’s IT department and he “tricked [a Twitter] employee into giving him the credentials” (Hollister, 2020). After getting the credentials, Clark proceeds to post fake tweets asking people to send Bitcoins with the promise that the user will receive double the amount. However, he would take the money and send the Bitcoins to another account. He sent the tweets from accounts of notable people such as Barack Obama, President Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Apple, etc. Clark stole a substantial amount of money, receiving:


approximately $117,000 during the commission of his scheme to defraud. Sheppard and Fazeli was caught because they used their driver’s license to verify themselves. Fazeli is facing five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for one count of computer intrusion. Sheppard is being charged with computer intrusion, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy, the most serious of which comes with a 20-year sentence and a $250,000 fine in the US… Clark is currently in jail and being charged [as an adult] with over 30 felony counts, including organized fraud, communications fraud, identity theft, and hacking (Hollister, 2020).

Luckily, the FBI, IRS, US Secret Service, and Florida law enforcement caught these con artists before they could do more harm.


One of the most unethical behaviors that a person can engage in is scamming people out of money when they are desperate. Graham Clark, Nima Fazeli and Mason Sheppard chose to use this COVID-19 pandemic to trick people into sending Bitcoins to them. They deserve to receive the maximum sentence, and they need to pay the money back with interest for the rest of their lives. This suggestion may seem harsh, but it will be necessary in order to deter others from doing the same or worst.


Total Takings by ‘giveaway scams’


Figure 1. This illustrates that cybercrimes have become more prevalent since the pandemic started in 2020. 2021 is not over yet but the cybercrimes are already more than 2018 and 2019 (Tidy, 2021).


References

Hollister, S. (2020, July 31). Three people have been charged for Twitter's huge hack, and a

Florida teen is in jail. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/7/31/21349920/twitter-

hack-arrest-florida-teen-fbi-irs-secret-service.

Tidy, J. (2021, March 16). Bitcoin: Fake Elon Musk giveaway scam 'cost man £400,000'. BBC

News. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56402378.

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