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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Pennsylvania Man Indicted In “SIM Swapping” Scheme To Steal Cryptocurrency

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury indicted Anthony Francis Faulk with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge John Bennett. 

The indictment, unsealed today, alleges that Faulk, 23, of Latrobe, Penn., engaged in a scheme to obtain cryptocurrencies and other money and property by fraud and extortion.  According to the indictment, Faulk targeted assets owned and controlled by executives of cryptocurrency-related companies and cryptocurrency investors.  The indictment alleges Faulk and others engaged in a “SIM swapping” scheme.  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 further 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.  Faulk and his co-conspirators also allegedly extorted victims of the SIM swapping scheme.

The indictment charges Faulk with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and one count of interstate communications with intent to extort, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(d). 

In addition, 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 in twenty songs.  According to the indictment, the property obtained with the proceeds of the SIM swapping scheme is subject to criminal forfeiture.   

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted of the conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge, Faulk faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine in the amount of $250,000.  If convicted of the extortion charge, Faulk faces a maximum statutory sentence of 2 years in prison and a fine in the amount of $250,000.  The court also may order an additional term of supervised release, fines or other assessments, restitution, and forfeiture, if appropriate.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  

Faulk was arrested today in Latrobe, Penn., and made his initial appearance in the Western District of Pennsylvania on December 11, 2019.  He was released on a $250,000 bond.  His next scheduled appearance is at 10:30 a.m. on January 9, 2020, before the Honorable Sallie Kim, U.S. Magistrate Judge.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Leach is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Mimi Lam, Rebecca Shelton, and Kimberly Richardson.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.
 

Updated December 11, 2019