A British hacker should be extradited to the US for his alleged involvement in a gang that stole £35 million from cryptocurrency wallets, a court has heard.
Corey De Rose, 22, allegedly used a technique known as “sim swapping” or “sim hacking” when he was a teenager to steal digital wallets, a that which stores private information for cryptocurrency transactions.
Mr De Rose is accused of acting alongside other members of a hacking group called The Community to access the wallets, exchange crypto assets for bitcoin and transfer it to their own accounts.
The $300,000 (£211,500) Mr De Rose was paid in bitcoin would now be worth $5,488,350, (£3.87 million), Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday.
The 22-year-old allegedly stole more than £35 million in cryptocurrency from numerous victims and prosecutors argued that he was behind a user name in a chat room discussing acquisition of $50 million dollars of Bitcoin using the name “Live Cr00k”.
Mr De Rose also faces accusations of stealing a further $8.5 million from a victim identified in court as R.M. The initials are believed to refer to Reggie Middleton, a businessman who was fined by the US authorities last year for allegedly misleading investors over the profitability of a company called Veritaseum.
In 2017, Mr Middleton was accused of raising millions of dollars through an initial coin offering without registering with the authorities, claiming later that a hacker stole 36,000 tokens valued at $8 million.
Mr Middleton claimed his phone provider agreed to a sim swap without his knowledge, which led to the thefts.
Accused is ‘suicide risk’ and should be tried in UK
Peter Caldwell, for the US government, said Mr Middleton’s alleged activities’ did not entitle Mr De Rose to act as Robin Hood and use the assets as he wished.
Mr De Rose is represented by Edward Fitzgerald, QC, who is also acting for Julian Assange in his fight against the US extradition request.
Mr Fitzgerald said Mr De Rose has Asperger’s Syndrome and had a long history of self-harm, telling the court he should not be extradited because he was a suicide risk.
“This is a very exceptional case,” Mr Fitzgerald QC said. “There is evidence of a serious and longstanding mental disorder, and a high risk of suicide.
“The prosecution should take place here and not in the United States.”
Mr Fitzgerald said his client was 18 at the time he was said to have stolen the money and that the sum of $8.6 million was based on Mr Middleton’s representations, adding: “He’s not entitled to a ha’penny back.”
“Even if everything you say there is correct … it doesn’t justify people committing offenses against other people,” said Judge Sarah-Jane Griffiths.
Mr Caldwell told the court: “We’re concerned with a very extensive fraud which involves the taking over of victims’ identity information in order to assume control of their wallets.”
He added: “His role was to obtain the underlying identity information which permitted access to a wallet.”
Mr De Rose, of Earls Court, west London, denies conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and theft. The hearing continues.
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