WEST HOLLYWOOD—Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau, in collaboration with Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents, arrested a suspect indicated on conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and identity theft charges on Thursday, May 9.
Reyad Gafar Abbas, 19, of Rochester, New York was one of nine people indicted as part of a multinational hacking group known as “The Community.” According to the LASD’s Facebook page, the hacking group used a technique called “SIM Swapping” or “SIM Hijacking” to gain control of their victim’s mobile phone. By doing this, it allowed the hackers to access the victim’s cryptocurrency wallet or cryptocurrency exchange accounts and steal the victim’s funds. The total known loss in cryptocurrency is valued at approximately $2.4 million.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation started in February 2018, when a West Hollywood resident reported being a victim of a large cryptocurrency theft. LASD’s cybercrime investigators used advanced investigative techniques both in cyber space and on the streets that led to the identification of the suspect. Deputies traveled to Rochester, and with the assistance of the New York State Patrol, served a search warrant at Abbas’ home. Digital evidence was obtained as a result of the warrant which showed communications between Abbas and his co-conspirators regarding potential victims and hacking methods.
As the investigation continued, authorities learned that Abbas was part of a hacker group called “The Community.” Coordination among several state, local and federal law enforcement agencies uncovered the scale of “The Community” criminal scheme and ultimately led to the nine arrests.
Authorities are alerting citizens to utilize two-factor identification on all of their accounts, make sure to use passwords that are unique and complex and to not give out personal information over the phone or via email unless you have verified the legitimacy of the recipient. As cybercrime becomes more prevalent, it is important to report it to the local law enforcement agency if you are a victim.