21-Year-Old High School Valedictorian Gets 10 Years Behind Bars for SIM Swapping & Stealing $7.5 Million in Crypto

2018 was marked with several highs and lows in the crypto space. This includes multiple cases of crypto fraud through SIM swapping, illegal mining, malware attacks, and more. Joel Ortiz’s recent case of SIM swapping conviction in California shows that this criminal trend continues in 2019 as well.

In the category of SIM swapping, a good number of cases (running into the hundreds) were recorded in 2018 only. SIM swapping is usually done through different methods. In some cases, the criminal poses as the victim and reports a case of a missing SIM to the network provider. Upon submission of the correct ID, which the criminal must have stolen from the victim, the network provider has no choice but to transfer the SIM into a new SIM. By doing so, the criminal gains access to the victim’s SIM without having his or her phone. With the SIM, the criminal can bypass authentication by having a confirmation code sent to the SIM.

The alarming rise of high-tech thefts gave birth to a special task force in the state of California called REACT. The task force, which is composed of law enforcement agents from California’s Bay Area agencies, is spearheaded by the District Attorney’s Office. Thanks to the REACT team, 5 of the criminals who are allegedly responsible for the crypto frauds recorded in 2018 have been captured and a news release from the Office of the District Attorney confirms that one of these 5 criminals have been put behind bars for a long time.

The 21-year-old crypto thief who identifies as Joel Ortiz is one of the first criminals to be convicted for crypto theft in the entire country. Ortiz, who was a Boston high school valedictorian at the time, reportedly stole more than $7.5 million from at least 40 people. In one of his many scams last year, Ortiz stole over $5.2 million from a Cupertino cryptocurrency entrepreneur in only a couple of minutes. He was indeed a prolific SIM swapper. Thanks to the REACT team, he is now out of the virtual street.

After his conviction, the court was able to recover about $400,000 from the lump sum he stole. The 21-year-old criminal reportedly spent the money he stole quite extravagantly. The release states that Ortiz spent a big chunk of the stolen money at Los Angeles clubs, designer luggage and clothing, and even hiring a helicopter to drive him and his friends to a music festival.

Ortiz pleaded no contest to ten felony theft charges earlier in the year (January 24th, precisely) and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday, April 19th by Edward Lee, the Santa Clara County Judge.

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