Bloomberg — A British man has been sentenced to five years in prison for his role in a social media attack that saw the hijacking of the Twitter accounts of top US political and business leaders, and for cyberstalking and threatening several people.
Joseph James O’Connor, 24, pleaded guilty in New York last month to participating in numerous online hacking schemes, including Twitter impersonation of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and others, in July 2020, to announce a Bitcoin scheme.
The guilty plea came after O’Connor, known online as “PlugwalkJoe,” was extradited from Spain on April 26.
“I’m ashamed to be here,” O’Connor told US District Judge Jed Rakoff at his sentencing hearing in Manhattan on Friday, June 23. “I feel sorry for all the victims of my crimes. I’m here because I did stupid and shameful things.”
“I will never break the law again,” O’Connor said. “I want to live a meaningful life, not the idiot, empty, hermit life that I was living.”
Rakoff said he considered O’Connor’s relatively young age and autism in reaching the sentence. O’Connor had asked the court not to give him more time behind bars than the 23 months he had already served before being sentenced. He will be credited with that time, the judge said. Prosecutors argued for seven years.
“O’Connor used his sophisticated technological skills for malicious purposes: he performed a complex SIM-swap attack to steal large amounts of cryptocurrency, hacked into Twitter, used hacks to take over social media accounts, and even cyberstalked two victims, including a minor. Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement at the time of O’Connor’s guilty plea.
O’Connor also pleaded guilty to stealing $794,012.64 from a Manhattan-based cryptocurrency company by SIM-swapping some of its executives. He has agreed to give up that amount.
He further admitted to “beating up” a 16-year-old girl in June and July 2020, calling local police and claiming that she planned to shoot people in what he thought was their address.
O’Connor also sent similar messages to a high school, a restaurant and the sheriff’s department. The following month, he called several members of the victim’s family and threatened to kill them.
The case is US v. O’Connor, 21-cr-00536, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Hacker Who Breached Obama and Bezos Twitter Accounts Sentenced