20-Year-Old Richard Yuan Li Faces Up to Five Years In Jail For Crypto Theft Via Sim Swap

Richard Yuan Li, a 20-year-old resident of California, has been charged in the Eastern District of Louisiana, for his role in a SIM swap scam that targeted a minimum of twenty people, including a physician in New Orleans.

The young man was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud by gaining unauthorized access to his victims’ various personal accounts, including cryptocurrency accounts. Such access allowed him to divert a victim’s incoming calls and text messages to a different phone. This way, he could access the owner’s accounts and withdraw funds without the knowledge of the account owner.

The Ploy

According to the news release by the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ), LI had taken part in multiple roles in sim-swapping with his allies, with the first of them involving Apple Inc. in January 2018.

They claimed to have ordered an Apple iPhone 8 but have not received it; meanwhile, it was false, and LI took possession of the phone. Then they arranged for the telephone numbers of the different people to be swapped to SIM cards contained in cellular phones they have with them, including the Apple iPhone 8.

One of the victim’s phone number was swapped in a sim card contained in the iPhone 8. They were successful with this and were able to gain access to the person’s email accounts and cryptocurrency accounts. As a result, they were able to steal a significant portion of the victim’s cryptocurrency. 

Other SIM swap operations carried out by LI, and his co-conspirators were targetted at a minimum of 20 persons within October and December 2018.

LI has been arrested for these crimes, and if convicted, will face a maximum term of five (5) years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000.00, up to three (3) years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment per count.

Meanwhile, Coinfomania reported recently that at least A$100 million was lost to crypto-theft via SIM swap scam, thus, reaffirming the need for holders to be more cautious about their accounts on crypto exchanges.