A British man accused of hacking the Twitter accounts of billionaires and U.S. politicians such as Joe Biden and Barack Obama is being extradited to the United States to face charges.
23-year-old Joseph James O’Connor has been detained since his arrest in July 2021 in the south of Spain.
Obama hacker to be extradited
The Liverpool native is accused of hacking the Twitter accounts of then-presidential candidate Biden and Obama in July 2020 as part of an attack targeting 130 different users.
O’Connor, who went by the alias PlugWalkJoe, used the hacked accounts to scam Twitter users into sending him Bitcoin.
He also allegedly hacked entrepreneurs Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.
After his arrest in the coastal city of Estepona, Spain’s National Court said the case was serious enough to warrant holding him until extradition could be facilitated.
14 criminal charges
O’Connor fought the extradition, arguing the servers he used were in Spain.
But Spain’s National Court said the crimes were committed in the U.S, where he faces charges such as revelation of secrets, membership of a criminal gang, illegal access to computer systems, internet fraud, money laundering and extortion.
‘The judges who took the decision consider the necessary conditions exist for the handover of Joseph James O’Connor, alias PlugwalkJoe, on 14 criminal charges…..the judges have rejected all the arguments put forward by the wanted man’s defense lawyers,” the court said.
O’Connor is also accused of stealing and then laundering $784,000 in cryptocurrency from a Manhattan-based crypto firm in a 2019 attack involving other hackers.
He also allegedly threatened to release compromising photos of an unidentified public figure whose Snapchat account he hacked in an attempt at extortion.
Fraudster taunted police
O’Connor is wanted by courts in the Northern District of California and the Southern District of New York. He can appeal the extradition decision.
He told the New York Times prior to his arrest, “I don’t care – they can come arrest me. I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything.”
O’Connor is also accused of maliciously reporting false threats to police in order to mobilize an emergency response at target locations, a prank known as “swatting.”