Joseph James O’Connor aka PlugwalkJoe, a 24-year-old hacker charged with cybercrime, was sentenced to five years in prison in a New York court on June 23. A month ago, he pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $800,000 in cryptocurrency from a New York company and hijacking more than 130 Twitter accounts belonging to celebrities and prominent companies such as Uber, Apple, Barack Obama, Kanye West, and Bill Gates. The estimated losses of scam victims netted nearly $120,000.
O’Connor’s arrest occurred two years ago in connection with the Twitter hack. The hacked celebrity accounts gave O’Connor access to multi-million communities of followers to whom he touted his Bitcoin scam. O’Connor and other scammers from his group asked Twitter users to send them cryptocurrency promising to double that money.
Some of the posts written by O’Connor's team and posted from the hijacked accounts to lure victims were published by TechCrunch on Twitter. "I am giving back to my community due to Covid-19! All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. If you sent $1,000, I will send back $2,000," reads one of these tweets posted on Kanye West's account, urging his followers to take fast action, "Only doing this for the next 30 minutes!"
In 2019, O’Connor also hacked the social media accounts of Bella Thorne and Addison Rae and threatened to publish their personal information and private pictures. Those two cases were not included in the court filing.
"O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted multiple people’s lives. He harassed, threatened and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm," The Guardian news outlet quoted Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. as saying.
Mason Sheppard and Nima Fazeli also received their sentences. The mastermind of the hacking group, Ivan Clark, was sentenced to three years in a juvenile facility in July 2021. This was the maximum sentence the state provided for minor offenders.