TAMPA, Fla. (NCC News) — The massive Twitter hack that took control of accounts owned by Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos and Apple, among others, took an unexpected turn Friday when 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark was arrested as the alleged mastermind.
The Tampa teenager is accused of using the accounts to swindle unsuspecting followers into sending him and his two co-conspirators bitcoin, a digital currency that is very difficult to trace. The ploy netted over $100,000 in one day.
Josh Fiallo is investigating the story for the Tampa Bay Times, and his biggest surprise was the age of the suspect. Authorities initially reported the arrested person was a man, Fiallo had to go back through his initial story to change the wording to ‘boy’ after Clark became known.
“You don’t expect a 17-year-old to be able to take down Twitter,” said Fiallo. “I mean this is the number one platform the president of the United States uses to get his message across.”
Clark was aided by 19-year-old Mason Sheppard and 22-year-old Nima Fazeli, who helped him gain access to Twitter’s internal operations. Both are in federal custody, while Clark is in state custody as a legal minor.
“This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before,” said State Attorney Andrew Warren.
As the level of sophistication would suggest, this was not the first time Clark ran afoul of the law. The Secret Service seized over $700,000 worth of bitcoin from him in April, according to the New York Times. He had stolen it from a Silicon Valley investor.
Even after the arrest, prosecutors are unsure if they have located all of Clark’s ill-gotten digital assets.
“They were trying to set his bail at $30 million, like a ridiculous number, because they had no idea how much money he had and they didn’t want him to post bail,” said Fiallo. “That just goes to show that this guy wasn’t your typical 17-year-old.”
Now, the teenager that forced Twitter to stop every verified account from tweeting July 15 is facing 30 criminal charges. He is being held without bail in the Hillsborough County jail.