During the high-profile security breach a year ago, fake tweets were sent from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon's then-CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The bogus tweets asked followers of the high-profile accounts to send Bitcoin payments. O'Connor is at least the fourth suspect charged in connection with the hack.
A Florida teenager was sentenced in March to three years in prison for his role in the hacking operation. Graham Ivan Clark pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges as part of a deal with Hillsborough County prosecutors.
Andrew Warren, the Florida state attorney who prosecuted Clark, said in an interview Wednesday he still considers him to be the mastermind of the plot.
Warren said Clark was involved in the social engineering and hacking to get access to the Twitter accounts, as well as selling the accounts and sending out the tweets.
“And he’s the one who collected six figures worth of Bitcoin,” Warren said.
The complaint against O'Connor on Wednesday said he conspired with Clark and others to benefit from the hack of Twitter accounts. Online chats obtained by investigators show that during the hack O'Connor expressed interest in buying some high-profile accounts, including Donald Trump's.
Prosecutors have said the plot originated in an online forum for people looking to obtain social media usernames that carry some prestige. Such coveted usernames, known as “OG” or “original gangster” accounts, are typically short and might have been created when Twitter was in its earliest stages more than a decade ago.
There’s an underground market for stealing and trading the sought-after handles on Twitter and other social media sites such as Instagram or the gaming worlds of Minecraft and Fortnite.
Twitter, Instagram and TikTok earlier this year said they were cracking down on accounts affiliated with the theft and sale of OG usernames. Twitter declined to comment Wednesday on O'Connor's arrest. TikTok didn't respond to requests for comment.
AP writer Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report