24th April 2024
A moment during the search of computers belonging to the detainee, on the right of the image, in July 2021 in Estepona.
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Spain orders extradition of British man to US for alleged hacking & cybercrime

Spain’s National Court has agreed to the extradition to the United States of a British citizen who allegedly took part in computer attacks, including the July 2020 hacking of Twitter accounts of public figures such as Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Gates. ALSO READ: Brit arrested in Estepona, accused of hacking Twitter accounts in Bitcoin scam.

A court statement said requirements had been met for handing over Joseph James O’Connor, who used the alias of ‘PlugWalkJoe’ online, to the US authorities for 14 charges covering crimes such as revelation of secrets, membership of a criminal gang, illegal access to computer systems, internet fraud, money laundering and extortion.

O’Connor, 23, from Liverpool, was arrested in the southern Spanish coastal town of Estepona (Andalusia) in July 2021. He had previously refused to be transferred to the US voluntarily following his arrest at his Costa del Sol home.

He is accused of hacking around 130 Twitter accounts. The court document said he is also wanted for hacking the Snapchat account of an unidentified public figure whom he allegedly tried to extort with the threat of publishing nude photographs of the person.

The Twitter accounts of Kim Kardashian, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Kayne West were also hit.

The alleged hacker used the accounts to solicit digital currency, prompting Twitter to prevent some verified accounts from publishing messages for several hours until security could be restored.

He is also wanted for several cases of ‘swatting’, prank calls to emergency services aimed at getting large numbers of police to be sent to different locations.

As well as those incidents, the US authorities had asked for an amplification to the extradition which covered new charges including several computer hacks with the aim of stealing money and cryptocurrency, allegedly laundered via bank transfers and transactions.

The court rejected arguments by O’Connor’s lawyers that he should be tried in Spain since the servers he used were located there.

The court said the US was in a better position to prosecute because that is where the evidence obtained in the investigation is located, as is any damage caused.

The statement said he is wanted by courts in the Northern District of California and the Southern District of New York. The extradition order can be appealed.

A moment during the search of computers belonging to the detainee, on the right of the image, in July 2021 in Estepona.
A moment during the search of computers belonging to the detainee, on the right of the image, in July 2021 in Estepona. (Policia Nacional)

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