A pair of 20-year-olds from Brockton and Rockport who pleaded guilty last year to stealing cryptocurrency and valuable account names from at least 10 people across the country are set to be sentenced Wednesday in Boston federal court.
Eric Meiggs of Brockton and Declan Harrington of Rockport were charged in November 2019 with running a nationwide scheme to take over people’s online accounts to steal cryptocurrency and high-value media account names. The pair stole more than $530,000 in cryptocurrency and took two “OG” account names from their victims, law enforcement officials previously said.
And now prosecutors are asking a federal judge to sentence Meiggs and Harrington to two years in prison, the minimum mandatory sentences they face for the charges against them, and a timetable that defense lawyers for Meiggs agree with.
“When Eric Meiggs pled guilty nearly 18 months ago, he did so fully aware that he would be required to serve a sentence of at least two years in federal prison for his conviction on … aggravated identity theft,” Meiggs’ lawyers wrote, adding that his participation in a rehabilitation program “shows that he is truly committed to the rehabilitation that began even before his arrest in this case.”
- Read more: Massachusetts men arrested for sophisticated computer hacking scheme designed to steal cryptocurrency
Meiggs pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud and abuse, and aggravated identity theft. Harrington pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, five counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud and abuse, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The duo used a process called “SIM-swapping” to gain control of their victims’ online accounts, according to court documents. The trick involves convincing phone companies to transfer service from a victim’s cell phone to another that Meiggs or Harrington controlled.
Once in control of the phone service, the pair could receive texts and use them to “divert password reset links or authentication codes that they caused to be sent to the victims’ phones, thereby giving Meiggs and others the ability to access the victims’ email and social media accounts,” court documents say.
Harrington’s primary role, prosecutors say, was to purchase and hold onto new phones and SIM cards where reset links and authentication codes could be sent.
“With this access, the defendants and their coconspirators were able to skim through the victims’ digital lives and find and take cryptocurrency currency or control of social media account names,” prosecutors said in court documents.
And their victims, court documents say, were those who were most likely to use Bitcoin.
“The defendants sometimes extorted payment from victims in exchange for giving back control of the accounts, and sometimes fraudulently impersonated the victims, successfully asking friends and acquaintances for a short-term loan of Bitcoin, which was never repaid,” prosecutors wrote in sentencing documents.
Lawyers for Meiggs argue his “tragic childhood” left him isolated and living a life online where “he learned to and engaged in antisocial behavior,” according to court documents, which also say when he was in his mid-teens he “had no structure whatsoever in his life.”
“As a teen, Eric Meiggs, unfortunately, learned that he could get away with negative behavior online,” court documents say. “Unchecked, that lesson then extended into criminal behavior.”
And Meiggs’ lawyers also say his participation in a rehabilitation program known as Repair, Invest, Succeed, Emerge, or RISE, “required him to put in the work to make significant changes to his lifestyle even though, unlike any other of the dozens of RISE participants, he had no hope of avoiding incarceration altogether.”
One victim of Meiggs and Harrington — described in court documents as “Victim 3″ — told prosecutors he operated a cryptocurrency-related business and lost control of his phone in March 2018.
- Read more: Mistrial due to COVID exposure declared in trial of man accused of killing Diane Lamarche-Leader
After hours on the phone with AT&T, the victim learned he had also lost access to several online accounts, including a Facebook profile, court documents say. The victim had to take time off from work the next day to restore his phone service.
“When Victim 3 arrived home from that experience, he received a message from a Facebook friend who had just sent approximately $100,000 in Bitcoin in response to Victim 3′s purported request for help for his hospitalized mother. (The mother was not in the hospital, and Victim 3 had not requested help),” prosecutors wrote. “Victim 3 felt compelled to repay his friend with Bitcoin that he had worked hard to amass over two years, and at significant personal cost to the victim’s relationship with his then-wife.”
Meiggs is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. and Harrington at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in federal court in Boston before Senior Judge George A. O’Toole Jr.