US Officials Allege Student Defrauded Apple as Part of SIM Swap Attack

A UC-San Diego student is accused of participating in a SIM-swapping scam that defrauded Apple and stole one victim’s crypto.

Jun 9, 2020 at 6:01 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:49 a.m. UTC

A 20-year old California resident was charged Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice with allegedly participating in a SIM-swapping scam that defrauded Apple and stole one victim’s cryptocurrency.

Richard Yuan Li, a student at University of California-San Diego, is accused of one count of conspiracy to commit felony wire fraud in connection with the scheme, which hit 19 victims and successfully plundered a “significant portion” of crypto from one, a New Orleans doctor, according to the allegations.

The DOJ filed its charges against Li in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

It is not clear how much crypto Li and conspirators allegedly stole from the unnamed doctor. According to case filings, the victim had accounts with Binance, Bittrex, Coinbase, Gemini and Poloniex, among others. At one point, one conspirator attempted to extort the victim for 100 bitcoin.

How the alleged SIM swap went down, however, is abundantly clear. Li and his conspirator first tricked an Apple representative into sending them an iPhone 8, “arranged for victims’ telephone numbers to be swapped” to that phone, and then bypassed their target’s security measures to gain access to files, prosecutors claim.

Prosecutors allege Li participated in at least 28 SIM swaps between October 2018 and December 2018. They further allege the actions amount to federal crimes because the SIM swaps transmitted signals across state lines and are therefore subject to the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

If convicted, Li could face a five-year sentence and $250,000 fine.

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