HATFIELD, Pa. (AP) - A self-described computer hacker claims he stole over $40 million in the virtual currency bitcoin, and told officials he was planning to flee to London by using a fake passport in the name of actor Jeremy Renner.
Court documents say Theodore Price, of Hatfield, told police he had written software to steal as much as $50 million in bitcoin. The Morning Call reports (https://bit.ly/2vDJzh7 ) Price is charged with access device fraud and identity theft described in a Wednesday court filing.
Bitcoin is a digital currency with no ties to any government. It can be exchanged for U.S. currency and other national currencies. The current exchange rate is over $2,600 U.S. dollars for 1 bitcoin.
Police began investigating Price after two laptops were reported stolen by a Holland Township couple. Price’s girlfriend later discovered Price had stolen the laptops from her parents, and reported the theft to police.
Price was also charged with unauthorized access to a computer for personal financial gain, but the charge has since been withdrawn. Assistant U.S. Attorney would not say why Price was not charged with theft, saying federal prosecutors have about a month to seek an indictment from a grand jury.
Based on the evidence it hears, a grand jury can recommend whatever charges it sees fit.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials say they found stolen personal information in Price’s possession, which he claims to have purchased from a “dark web” store. The “dark web” is a network of encrypted internet sites often used by cyber criminals.
According to Cornell University Professor Emin Guin Sirer, who studies cybersecurity and virtual currencies, bitcoin is a common target for hackers as there is no regulation - so no higher authority can reverse a fraudulent transaction.
While theft is common, Sirer says it is unusual to actually locate the person responsible for a theft.
Price’s public defender didn’t immediately comment Thursday.
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