Spain agrees to extradite British suspect to US over huge Twitter hack that saw celebrity accounts taken over
- Joseph James O’Connor, 23, goes by the name ‘PlugWalkJoe’ online
- Spain’s Audiencia Nacional in Madrid said it had agreed to hand O’Connor over
A Spanish court has agreed to extradite a 23-year-old British man wanted in the US in connection with the alleged hacking of Twitter accounts of celebrities and politicians including Barack Obama. Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian.
Joseph James O’Connor, who goes by the name ‘PlugWalkJoe’ online, had refused to be transferred to the US voluntarily following his arrest at his Costa del Sol home in July 2021.
Today Spain’s Audiencia Nacional in Madrid said it had agreed to hand him over.
A statement from the court, which deals with extradition proceedings, said: ‘The Audiencia Nacional has agreed to the extradition request from the United States against a 23-year-old British man who allegedly participated in several computer attacks including hacking in July 2020 of Twitter accounts like those of Joseph Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Gates, extortion of another person on social networks and the commission of different Internet thefts.
British citizen Joseph James O’Connor (centre) is lead by Spanish police officers as he leaves a court after being arrested in connection with an alleged July 2020 Twitter hack, Estepona, Spain, July 22, 2021
Joseph James O’Connor (right) had refused to be transferred to the US voluntarily following his arrest at his Costa del Sol home in July 2021
‘The judges who took the decision consider the necessary conditions exist for the handover of Joseph James O’Connor, alias PlugwalkJoe, on 14 criminal charges that in Spain would equate to crimes including membership of a criminal organisation, extortion, illegal access to computer systems, computer fraud and money laundering.’
‘The judges have rejected all the arguments put forward by the wanted man’s defence lawyers.’
The court spokesman said the documents provided by the US as part of the extradition proceedings referenced 130 Twitter accounts O’Connor, who was held in Estepona, allegedly targeted.
He added: ‘The documents also describe the hacking of a well-known person’s Snapchat account he allegedly tried to blackmail and harass with the threat of publishing naked photos of that person.
‘O’Connor has also been linked to several incidents of so-called swatting, which are fake calls to the emergency services made under false pretences.
‘In those calls the wanted man is accused of making false claims to officers to mobilise an emergency response which included threats to blow up an airport or a call in which he said an armed and dangerous individual wanted to kill his wife and children.
‘As well as those incidents, the US authorities asked for an amplification to the extradition which covered new charges including several computer hacks with the aim of stealing money and cryptocurrency, that was subsequently allegedlyly laundered via bank transfers and transactions.’
The scam saw hackers ask followers ask accounts like that of Bill Gates to send bitcoin to an account, promising to double their money
The attack reached over 130 Twitter accounts, including those of Kanye West, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama
Joseph O’Connor was arrested in Spain in July 2021 over the alleged hack of Twitter accounts of celebrities and politicians
O’Connor, believed to be from Liverpool, had previously denied being behind the Twitter hack which is also thought to have affected people like Elon Musk, Kanye West and Warren Buffet.
He told the New York Times before his detention: ‘I don’t care – they can come arrest me.
‘I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything.’
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