Federal authorities this week charged a Unity Township man for allegedly stealing cryptocurrency executives’ holdings through a SIM-swapping scheme.
Anthony Francis Faulk, 23, faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion, according to a news release through the U.S. attorney’s office of the Northern District of California.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Faulk and others conspired to target assets owned or controlled by executives of cryptocurrency companies and investors. They gained access to cellphone subscriber identity module cards using a technique called SIM swapping.
A SIM card — short for Subscriber Identity Module or Subscriber Identification Module — is a technology used to identify and authenticate subscribers on mobile phone devices. According to the indictment, “Faulk and others used fraud, deception and social engineering techniques to induce representatives of cellphone service providers to transfer or port cellphone numbers from SIM cards in the devices possessed by victims to SIM cards in devices possessed by the conspirators, a practice known as SIM swapping.”
The indictment alleges that after Faulk and his co-conspirators “gained control of victims’ cellphone numbers, the conspirators used additional deceptive techniques to gain access to email, electronic storage, and other accounts of victims and ultimately to cryptocurrency accounts of victims.”
According to the news release, the indictment alleges that Faulk used the proceeds of the SIM swapping scheme to obtain real and personal property for his own use and benefit, including a house, a Ferrari and three other cars, jewelry, a Rolex watch and royalty rights to 20 songs.
Faulk purchased a home on the 1400 block of Farmview Court for $942,500 in 2018, per online real estate records.
The cellphone takeovers began October 2016 and continued through May 2018, the indictment noted. It did not cite how much cryptocurrency Faulk allegedly seized from his victims.
The indictment charges Faulk with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort.
If convicted of the conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge, Faulk faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. If convicted of the extortion charge, Faulk faces a maximum statutory sentence of two years in prison and $250,000 fine.
Faulk was arrested the Latrobe area on Wednesday and is out on $250,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in San Francisco on Jan. 9, 2020.