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Monetary crime: College of California scholar allegedly tapped folks's cell telephones to steal their cryptocurrency

It was the worst kind of wrong number.

A 21-year-old student from the University of California San Diego allegedly seized the cell phone accounts of at least 40 people in order to loot their cryptocurrency wallets, prosecutors said.

Richard Yuan Li of Hercules, Calif., Is accused of sim-swap fraud from his dorm in Argo Hall. A SIM card – or subscriber identity module – is the chip in a phone that links a phone to its number and account.

They say Li conspired with an employee of a cell phone company to transfer the SIMs and cell phone accounts of unsuspecting victims to one held in a stolen iPhone he owned.

Once Li gained access to the victims 'accounts, prosecutors said he and other nameless conspirators would use the phone's two-factor authentication credentials to reset passwords and access the victims' emails, bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets to obtain.

In at least one case, prosecutors said Li stole a significant portion of a doctor's cryptocurrency from New Orleans and then tried to blackmail him into handing over additional $ 640,000 worth of bitcoins by threatening to take nude photos from the E. -Share the doctor's mail with people he knew. according to court records.

According to federal prosecutors in Louisiana, Li has a total of at least 40 numbers on his iPhone AAPL. activated
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between July and December 2018.

Li's attorney Bruce Ashley said his client was an "enlightened and very serious young man" with good academic record but declined to comment on the allegations against him.

Li was originally charged with the fraud in June 2020, but the case was recently expanded when prosecutors found that he allegedly cheated on far more victims than initially thought.

In February, Brandon, Fla., Prosecutor Stephen Daniel Defiore, 36, charged the cellular company employee with transferring control of victims' accounts to Li in exchange for $ 500 a day. The cellular provider has not been identified.

In the event of a conviction, Li threatens a prison sentence of a maximum of 20 years.

A Defiore attorney declined to comment.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

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