Dublin man, 20, wanted in US for €2m cryptocurrency theft, court hears

A garda investigation file is being prepared against a 20-year-old Dublin man who is wanted in the United States for the alleged hacking theft of more than $2 million dollars in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the High Court has heard.
Dublin man, 20, wanted in US for €2m cryptocurrency theft, court hears

A garda investigation file is being prepared against a 20-year-old Dublin man who is wanted in the United States for the alleged hacking theft of more than $2 million dollars in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the High Court has heard.

Conor Freeman was arrested at his home address in Glenageary Court, Dun Laoghaire, in May 2019 on foot of a warrant issued by US authorities.

Mr Freeman’s surrender is being sought on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud and four counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. If convicted in the US, Mr Freeman is facing up to 108 years in prison.

US authorities allege that members of an online group calling itself “The Community” conspired to “hack numerous targets” with the objective of stealing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, between February 2018 and May 2018. The others are US residents.

According to a warrant issued by the US Department of Justice, authorities have identified four attacks in which Mr Freeman allegedly participated that resulted in the theft of cryptocurrency valued at $2,187,977.

Siobhan Ni Chulachain BL, for the Minister for Justice, told the High Court today that the State was seeking a further adjournment in the case of six weeks due to a domestic prosecution file being prepared against Mr Freeman. "We are awaiting developments on that front before a decision is taken regarding the substantive case before the court," she outlined.

Mr Justice Paul Burns granted the State's request for more time and listed the case for mention again on June 22.

Mr Freeman was not present in court for today's list management procedure and was remanded on continuing bail until next month.

The warrant states that Mr Freeman and five others were indicted by a Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Michigan on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft on April 18, 2019.

Members of the group calling itself “The Community” allegedly specialised in a technique called “SIM Hijacking” or “SIM Swapping”, according to the warrant. This technique involves stealing identities by compromising a target’s mobile phone provider or gaining control of the target’s mobile phone number, it adds.

Once these individuals controlled a target’s mobile phone number, they leveraged it to compromise the target’s email and other online accounts, with the goal of eventually gaining control - and stealing - the target’s cryptocurrency, the warrant states.

In May 2018, a member of “The Community” involved in these attacks was arrested in the Eastern District of Michigan. This individual cooperated with US authorities, who gained access to his computers, including records of online chats between this subject and others.

Review of the chats revealed an individual identifying himself as “Conor” who allegedly played a significant role in “numerous attacks” by “The Community”, the warrant states.

US authorities have identified four attacks in which “Conor” participated that resulted in the theft of cryptocurrency valued at $2,187,977, according to the warrant.

Further investigations revealed that “Conor” is Conor Freeman, according to the warrant. It was substantiated by linking IP addresses used by “Conor” to Irish mobile phone and residential internet service providers, it adds.

The first five counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison per count while the final four counts carry a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, consecutive to the underlying felony.

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