D.A. Investigation Yields First Prosecution of SIM Swapping in New York, Among First Cases inU.S.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of DAWSONBAKIES, 20, for stealing the identities and funds of more than 50 victims across the United States in a sophisticated “SIM swapping” scheme executed from his Ohio home. BAKIES is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Identity Theft, Grand Larceny, Computer Tampering, and Scheme to Defraud, among other charges.
The indictment represents the first prosecution for SIM swapping by authorities in New York.
“Today my Office is putting the small handful of sophisticated ‘SIM Swappers’ out there on notice,” said District Attorney Vance. “We know what you’re doing, we know how to find you, and we will hold you criminally accountable, no matter where you are. We’re also asking wireless carriers to wake up to the new reality that by quickly porting SIMs – in order to ease new activations and provide speedy customer service – you are exposing unwitting, law-abiding customers to massive identity theft and fraud. I encourage victims, members of the hacking community, and wireless company employees who are aware of SIM swapping schemes to report them directly to our Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau at 212-335-9600.”
What is SIM Swapping?
“SIM Swapping” refers to a scam in which a thief asks a wireless carrier to redirect a victim’s phone number to a SIM card contained within a phone owned by the thief. Once the phone number has been “ported” to the thief’s phone, the thief can then receive or place calls using the stolen number and purporting to be the victim. The thief may also exploit text-based “two-factor authentication” in order to reset passwords or otherwise intercept text messages containing security codes needed to access the victim’s bank or cryptocurrency accounts.
People v. Bakies
According to the indictment and documents filed in court, between October 2018 and December 2018, BAKIES fraudulently ported the cell phone numbers of at least 50 different individuals across the United States to multiple iPhones in his possession. BAKIES then circumvented two-factor authentication security measures to access the victims’ online accounts, by requesting that recovery codes be sent to the phone numbers already associated with those online accounts – phone numbers which he now controlled.
BAKIES successfully accessed 18 online accounts belonging to three Manhattan-based victims, including their Google accounts and several cryptocurrency accounts, and changed the passwords on the accounts in order to prevent the victims from regaining control. BAKIES stole approximately $10,000 in cryptocurrency from these three victims. BAKIES further attempted to extort one of the victims by demanding a ransom to be paid in Bitcoin.
As alleged, BAKIES intentionally selected and targeted victims known to be active in cryptocurrency, due in part to the inherent difficulty in tracing the theft and transfer of cryptocurrency.
Upon executing a search warrant at the defendant’s home, Manhattan D.A. Investigators, together with members of the Columbus Police and NYPD, recovered an iPhone 6 used in this scheme. A search of the device yielded dozens of text messages containing recovery passwords for the victims’ online accounts. Investigators also recovered a laptop computer, which contained an encrypted drive on which BAKIES stored a document with the file name “Hacker Shit!” This document contained the names of “finished targets,” including the names of the three Manhattan victims, along with their personal identifying information.
Assistant D.A.s James Vinocur and Benjamen Roth are handling the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant D.A.s Jeremy Glickman and Robert Shull (Deputy Chiefs of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau), Assistant D.A. Elizabeth Roper (Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau), and Executive Assistant D.A. Michael Sachs (Chief of the Investigation Division). Supervising Rackets Investigator Gregory Dunlavey, Senior Rackets Investigator Thomas Mullin, Analyst Catherine Wigdor, High Technology Analysis Unit Deputy Director David Chan, and Computer Forensic Analyst Douglas Daus provided additional assistance with the investigation.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the NYPD’s Grand Larceny Division; the Columbus, Ohio Police Department, particularly Detective Wyatt Wilson; and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations – New York.
DAWSON BAKIES, D.O.B. 9/17/1998
- Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
- Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
- Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
- Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
- Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
- Computer Trespass, a class E felony, 18 counts
- Attempted Computer Trespass, a class A misdemeanor, 6 counts
- Computer Tampering in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 18 counts
- Unlawful Possession of Personal Identification Information in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 3 counts
- Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
 The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.