Last Friday, a 17-year-old Florida high school graduate, Graham Ivan Clark, was arrested and charged as the “mastermind” behind the massive bitcoin scam that ensnared the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Apple, and more — after he allegedly posed as a member of Twitter’s IT department and used Twitter’s own admin tools to break into those accounts.
This morning, I woke up early to hear what he — or his lawyer — had to say about that. It was so easy I didn’t even have to get to a desk. The court had publicly revealed last week it’d hold hearings over Zoom, no password required, so I tuned in with my phone from bed.
Apparently, it was too easy. So easy that trolls decided to zoombomb the entire hearing, spewing disgusting noises, piping in distracting music in several different languages, cursing out the court, and eventually hijacking the stream with a PornHub clip, according to cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs. (I stopped watching after I realized the 17-year-old defendant wasn’t going to show up, and I just listened to the rest with my earbuds.)
That is apparently my "someone just interrupted our court proceeding with pornography" face. First and hopefully last time I ever make it.— Andrew Warren (@AndrewWarrenFL) August 5, 2020
Judge Christopher Nash spent more time rapidly force-ejecting trolls than he did delivering his decision — which, by the way, was to keep Clark’s bail at $725,000, over six times the $117,000 in bitcoin he’s said to have gotten from the Twitter scam. While the judge did have to approve each attendee that joined, there was no way for him to tell from their usernames that they weren’t journalists or well-meaning members of the public, and he explained that Florida is supposed to allow them to attend.
Judge Nash and both parties’ lawyers remained admirably composed throughout, often resuming their arguments after each outburst as if nothing had happened. But eventually, the judge gave up on letting the public attend any future hearings in the case, saying future ones will be password protected.
And before he could formally end the hearing, trolls got the last word: “Fuck Rolex, free Mason, fuck all you [racial slur] in here,” they said, seemingly referring to the two other hackers who were charged (one named Mason Sheppard) on July 31st. That (and presumably the PornHub clip) were enough for the judge, who abruptly pulled the plug on the session.
Interestingly, the prosecution revealed that they suspect this isn’t Clark’s first bitcoin scam. Both sides’ lawyers referenced an earlier search warrant where California and Florida teamed up to seize his property last year, including $15,000 in cash, over $4 million in bitcoin, and his personal computers, as the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this week.
His lawyer stated today that he gave up 100 bitcoins (roughly $1.1 million) and was allowed to keep the rest, but the prosecution argued today that having $3 million in assets made him a flight risk, and they suspected that money came from earlier crimes. If I’m being honest, I couldn’t quite hear if the judge agreed with the former argument over all the zoombombs, but he’s no longer requiring Clark to prove that he earned those other bitcoins. Perhaps he can use them to pay bail.
The Tampa Bay Times also linked Clark to a home invasion in January where two teens reportedly broke into an apartment, both were shot by a resident, and one was killed. Neither one was Clark, but he was also stopped for questioning at the scene and marked as likely involved; his mother allegedly told a deputy that “ever since her son was involved in a homicide at the beginning of the year, he has been harassed by several individuals.”
Last month, Clark was also caught doing 72 miles per hour in a 45mph zone while driving a 2017 BMW, according to traffic records. If he didn’t pay the fine, he would have been due to appear in court tomorrow.
Journalists will still have a way to attend future hearings. We’ll let you know if they get zoombombed despite the password protection.
Correction: In the final zoombomb, he said “free Mason,” not “fuck Mason”. We regret the error.