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Press Release

Pennsylvania Resident Sentenced To Three Years In Prison For Role In Conspiracy To Defraud And Extort Cryptocurrency Executives

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Court ordered forfeiture of approximately $20 million in ill-gotten gains

SAN FRANCISCO – Anthony Francis Faulk was sentenced to serve 36 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $3 million in restitution for his role in a conspiracy to defraud more than a dozen cryptocurrency owners, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable William H. Orrick, United States District Judge. The Court also ordered forfeiture of numerous assets constituting or derived from proceeds obtained by Faulk’s crime.

Faulk, 26, of Latrobe, Penn., acknowledged his role in the conspiracy in a written plea agreement filed on March 2, 2023. According to his plea agreement, from October 2016 through May 2018, Faulk, using the alias “shade,” conspired with Matthew Ditman, aka “lord crump,” and Ahmad Hared, aka “special547” aka “winblo,” to defraud and extort cryptocurrency owners. The scheme involved “SIM swapping”—duping cellphone companies into giving Faulk and his co-conspirators control of victims’ cellphone numbers, using that access to hack into email and other victim accounts, and ultimately stealing the victims’ cryptocurrency or digital assets.

SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module or Subscriber Identification Module. A SIM card is a technology used to identify and authenticate subscribers on mobile phone devices. According to his plea agreement, Faulk admitted that he 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 members of the conspiracy. Once in possession of the illegally obtained information, members of the conspiracy reset passwords of their victims’ email, electronic storage, and other accounts. The co-conspirators then were able to control the accounts, access cryptocurrency accounts, and transfer cryptocurrencies from accounts owned by the victims to accounts or wallets controlled by Faulk and his co-conspirators.

Faulk also admitted that, in addition to transferring cryptocurrencies, the co-conspirators contacted some of their victims by telephone and threatened to compromise further accounts unless the victims paid additional money to the fraudsters.

Faulk was ordered to pay $2,816,433 in restitution to 11 victims of the scheme. (After the indictment in this matter, Faulk was charged in separate criminal case, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and was ordered to pay restitution to two additional victims.) The court also ordered forfeiture of numerous assets, seized by the government, constituting or derived from proceeds traceable to the conspiracy. Those assets include a nearly $1 million home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania; three J.P. Morgan Chase accounts totaling approximately $12,525,592, $6,242,919, and $18,118, respectively; a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GTS; a 2018 Nissan Rouge; a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado K1500; diamond jewelry; a Rolex; Tiffany earrings; and a Louis Vuitton handbag and wallet.

On December 10, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Faulk, charging him 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). Pursuant to his plea agreement, Faulk pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count. On the government’s motion, Judge Orrick dismissed the extortion count at the sentencing hearing.

Hared and Ditman were separately charged. Hared’s sentencing is set for August 31, 2023, and Ditman’s for October 12, 2023.

The case is being prosecuted by the Corporate and Securities Fraud Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Robert Leach is prosecuting the case, with assistance from Mimi Lam and Megan Pagaduan. This case is the result of an investigation from FBI.

Updated August 18, 2023