Mobile Firm Employee Charged With Aiding Crypto SIM-Swap Attacks Targeting 19

Stephen Defiore was allegedly paid to transfer cellphone accounts to ones owned by a co-conspirator.

Feb 9, 2021 at 11:09 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:08 p.m. UTC

A 36-year-old Florida-based telco employee was charged Monday over a SIM-swapping scam that stole one victim’s cryptocurrency.

Stephen Defiore, 36, received a one-count Bill of Information – a waiver of indictment and agreement to prosecution in court – with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Defiore is the second person charged in connection with a scheme that hit 19 victims in SIM-swap attacks, and stole a “significant portion” of cryptocurrency held by a doctor in New Orleans.

According to the report, Defiore worked as a sales representative between August 2017 and November 2018 for an unnamed phone company. Having access to the company's customer accounts, he allegedly performed SIM swaps – reassigning a SIM card to another user – as part of a $500 per day arrangement with a co-conspirator.

For each SIM-swap, which netted Defiore over $2,300 in total via 12 payments, co-conspirator Ricard Li sent him a customer’s cellphone number, a four-digit PIN and a new SIM-card number for the swap. Li was charged for his alleged involvement in June 2020.

A SIM-swap hack occurs when an attacker gains access to a victim's cellphone account, allowing incoming calls and text messages to be routed to a different device. The attacker is then able to change passwords on a victim's various accounts including emails and cryptocurrency exchange and bank accounts via SMS verification.

If convicted of the charge, Defiore faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as up to three years of supervised release after imprisonment and a mandatory $100 special assessment per count.

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