TAMPA — The case of the Tampa teenager accused of hacking celebrity Twitter accounts in July may be close to a resolution.
In a routine court hearing Wednesday, a defense lawyer for Graham Ivan Clark, said he’d received a plea offer from the state.
Attorney David Weisbrod told a judge he needed time to determine whether his client would accept the offer. Terms of the proposed plea deal were not discussed in court, though Weisbrod mentioned that it involved a potential sentence as a “youthful offender.”
Under Florida law, defendants who are younger than 21 may qualify to be sentenced as youthful offenders, a designation that allows courts to impose less punitive sanctions.
Clark was not present for Wednesday’s hearing, which occurred by video conference. Another hearing was set for March 16.
Clark, who turned 18 in jail, has been held in lieu of $725,000 bail since his July arrest.
He faces 30 felony charges related to a scheme that involved the hacking of Twitter accounts that belonged to celebrities and using them to solicit Bitcoin donations.
Victims named in the charging document include then President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Floyd Mayweather and Kim Kardashian. The hack also targeted Twitter accounts belonging to Apple, Uber and other companies.
Investigators accused Clark of being the mastermind behind the hack. But they say he pulled it off with help from Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, and Matthew Sheppard, 19, of the United Kingdom. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent testified in an August court hearing that Graham used the pair as “proxies” to “manipulate” Twitter employees into giving up access to the company’s system.
Clark was able to access internal Twitter tools that allowed control of any account, authorities said. He’s accused of selling access to accounts and using the identities of prominent people to solicit Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, promising that if people donated he would send them back twice as much.
A message tweeted from the account belonging to Biden read: “I am giving back to community. All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes ... Enjoy!”
The hackers compromised about 130 Twitter accounts. Prosecutors said Clark’s scheme netted more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in one day.
Fazeli and Sheppard were charged in federal court in California. But Clark was arrested and charged in state court in Florida.
Authorities cited his juvenile status as the reason the case was brought at the state level. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a July news conference that Florida law gives prosecutors greater flexibility to try a minor as an adult in a financial fraud case.
“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said.