herald

Sunday 19 May 2019

First photo of southside suspect wanted in states over €1.8m crypto fraud

Conor Freeman has been arrested after US authorities alleged he stole $2m in cryptocurrencies
Conor Freeman has been arrested after US authorities alleged he stole $2m in cryptocurrencies

This is the 20-year-old Dublin man who could face more than 100 years in a US prison for allegedly stealing more than $2m (€1.78m) in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online.

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

He is 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, he is facing up to 108 years in prison.

Yesterday, sources close to Mr Freeman told the Herald "he had never been in trouble in his life" and his innocent family was "completely shocked" when it was alleged 15 gardai called to the home in a dawn raid.

Targets

US authorities allege 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 and May last year. The others are resident in the US.

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 (€1,947,573).

US authorities state they planned to arrest Mr Freeman and seven others on Thursday.

They requested that Mr Freeman be arrested by gardai on the same date as his alleged co-conspirators because once he learned of their arrests, they alleged, he would destroy evidence and potentially flee, according to the warrant.

Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan, of the garda extradition unit, told the High Court on Thursday that he arrested Mr Freeman at his home address at around 8am and showed him an original warrant.

Details of the arrest are being published now.

When asked whether he knew about the allegations, Mr Freeman said "I do", according to Det Sgt Kirwan.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy remanded Mr Freeman in custody to appear before the High Court on May 22, when an application for bail is expected to be made.

The extradition warrant states 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 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.

The goal was to eventually gain control - and steal - the target's cryptocurrency, the warrant states.

In May 2018, a member of 'The Community' involved in the 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.

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