Police in California have arrested 19-year of Xzavyer Narvaez on suspicion of fraud and grand theft through allegations that Narvaez had been carrying out sim-swapping attacks in order to gain illicit access to people’s Bitcoin. It’s alleged that Narvaez amassed so much Bitcoin, he was able to make purchases of elite luxury items such as an Audi R8 supercar.
The charges against Narvaez account to 7, on the grounds of computer crime, identity fraud and grand theft. It is Narvaez’ luxury spending that first bought him to the attention of authorities when he was found to have traded in an Audi R8 supercar for a 2018 McLaren supercar alongside a further payment made in Bitcoin. Let’s face it, this is a pretty suspicious transaction for a 19 year old. As a result of this, according to CCN:
“Investigators also obtained his records from Bitcoin payment provider BitPay and cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex, where they discovered a flow of 156 Bitcoin (worth $1 million), according to a court document. This new arrest comes on the heels of that of Joel Ortiz who is accused of hijacking phone numbers to steal Bitcoin from victims in a first-of-its-kind crime earlier this year.”
It seems that the arrest of Ortiz may have in turn implemented Narvaez:
“Investigators got on Narvaez’s trail when they found a cellphone used by Ortiz had, at some point, logged into Narvaez’s Gmail account. AT&T also provided the authorities with the unique identifying numbers of the cell phones used to take down the victim’s phone numbers, the coordinates of the phone towers they connected to and Narvaez’s call records. The information revealed Narvaez’s phone was connected to the same cell tower at the same time, as one of the phones used to SIM swap victims.”
Sim swapping is a way of accessing passwords and of accessing 2-factor authentication systems. By getting access to a persons phone number through a rogue sim card, hackers can, with ease, access other personal details such as those that will be needed to access Bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallets.
Has the arrest of Ortiz opened a can of worms?
Perhaps so. The authorities have found a connection here between Ortiz and Narvaez, one that will no doubt lead to further investigations and further findings. There’s a chance that these guys could be part of a larger operation, one that is about to be busted open. Or, perhaps these are just two guys that found a way to steal Bitcoin and in the end, failed to get away with it.