(Bloomberg) -- A British man was sentenced to five years in prison for his involvement in a social media hack that included hijacking Twitter accounts of top US political and business leaders, and for cyberstalking and threatening several individuals.
Joseph James O’Connor, 24, pleaded guilty in New York last month to taking part in numerous online schemes, including a July 2020 hack of Twitter, which led to the impersonation of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and others to advertise a Bitcoin scheme. The guilty plea came after O’Connor, known online as “PlugwalkJoe,” was extradited from Spain on April 26.
“I am ashamed to be here,” O’Connor told US District Judge Jed Rakoff in his sentencing hearing in Manhattan Friday. “I’m sorry to all the victims of my crimes. I’m here because I did stupid and shameful things.”
“I will never break the law again,” O’Connor said. “I want to live a life with meaning, not the idiotic, empty, hermit life I was living.”
Rakoff said he considered O’Connor’s relatively young age and autism in reaching the sentence. O’Connor had asked the court to give him no more time behind bars than the 23 months he had already served before being sentenced. He’ll be credited with that time, the judge said. Prosecutors argued for seven years.
“O’Connor used his sophisticated technological abilities for malicious purposes — conducting a complex SIM swap attack to steal large amounts of cryptocurrency, hacking Twitter, conducting computer intrusions to take over social media accounts, and even cyberstalking two victims, including a minor victim,” Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement at the time of O’Connor’s guilty plea.
O’Connor also pleaded guilty to stealing $794,012.64 from a Manhattan-based cryptocurrency company by SIM swapping some of its executives. He has agreed to forfeit that amount.
In addition, he admitted “swatting” a 16-year old girl in June and July 2020, calling local police and claiming she was planning to shoot people at what he thought was her address. O’Connor also sent similar messages to a high school, a restaurant and a sheriff’s department. The next month he called multiple members of the victim’s family and threatened to kill them.
The case is US v. O’Connor, 21-cr-00536, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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