They were smart investors, smart enough to master the mysteries of digital currencies like bitcoins and ether. But according to California prosecutors, dozens of them were robbed by a 20-year-old college student from Boston Public School who used the cunning and technical skill to steal millions of digital money.
Joel Ortiz, a UMass Boston student from Allston, was arrested in California in July and charged with handling a complicated scheme that allegedly involved controlling the cell phones of his victims and then hacking their cryptocurrency accounts and drying them up. $ 5 million.
The Santa Clara County authorities said Ortiz had $ 250,000 in cryptocurrency when he was arrested at the Los Angeles airport on July 12 while he was traveling to Europe, and had blown $ 150,000 in a revelry that looked like a scene from the television program "Entourage": parties in rented buildings and a wardrobe of accumulated designer goods.
A high school classmate, Panos Yiotis, was in the school's robotics team with Ortiz and referred to him as "very tech savvy". Yiotis said he had contacted Ortiz recently for advice on cryptocurrencies.
"I remember asking Joel a few months ago for suggestions on how to enter the bitcoin and cryptocurrency trade," Yiotis said in an interview this week. "I would see his shots [Snapchat postings] talk about it and how he made a lot of money, but I never knew or thought he was doing it illicitly."
Ortiz is detained for $ 1 million on bail in California, charged with 28 counts of hacking, identity theft and identity theft. He should go back to court on August 9th.
The lawyer for the California public defense office representing Ortiz did not respond to requests for comment. At her Commonwealth Avenue apartment, a woman who had identified herself as Ortiz's mother would not comment.
The University of Massachusetts in Boston confirmed that Ortiz is a student, majoring in information technology.
In 2016 Ortiz was named valedictorian of Another Course to College, a small Boston pilot school now located in Hyde Park that specializes in college preparation courses. The Boston public schools have declared that university acceptance is a graduation requirement.
At the time of his honor, Boston Public Schools noted in a press release that Ortiz "loves science and technology" and said he was instrumental in the success of the school's "robotics" as a software programmer for robot robots. lead. He taught the basics of software coding to students and led the efforts to teach computer science. "
He was photographed with Mayor Martin J. Walsh and former superintendent of the Tommy Chang school at a luncheon honoring graduates of the Boston school of that year.  Boston Public Schools declined to comment Tuesday.
The alleged theft concerns cryptocurrency, which typically uses a complex software technology called blockchain to generate digital resources stored and tracked by various exchanges.People can buy bitcoins and other digital money using strong currencies. they are not backed by any real patrimony or government support, and are prone to wild fluctuations in the price that made some very wealthy – on paper.
Ironically, one of the main selling points of cryptocurrencies, according to supporters, is that technology creates secure online transactions while minimizing fraud.
The records of investigators filed in Santa Clara County say that Ortiz used a technique called "SIM exchange" to steal victims' identities. The authorities claimed that someone who personified the victims went to mobile carriers like AT & T and convinced the airlines to give him the phone numbers of the victims. In several cases, the authorities said, the thief appeared in person at a courier's shop, including one in Georgia, and presented a social security number.
With the telephone numbers of the victims under his control, the authorities said that Ortiz used his access to incoming calls and text messages to change passwords on their social media and financial accounts. So, armed with new passwords, Ortiz would withdraw funds from some of the victims' accounts.
In several incidents, the authorities took over, Ortiz impersonated his victims, contacting friends or family. In one case, Ortiz would have stolen $ 10,000 from a veteran technical manager in California, and then tried to get even more, phoning the victim's wife and sending a message to the victim's daughter: "Tell your father to give him the bitco of the United States "
In another he allegedly deceived a friend of a victim in the Ortiz" loan "of about $ 100,000 of digital currency, according to the statements of the victim filed by the California authorities.
Erin West, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, said investigators have located 40 victims, about half of whom live in California. He also called for other victims to come forward.
The victim's statements filed in the case indicate that many of the targets of the theft were technology veterans and cryptocurrency executives. Many attended the same New York Cryptocurrency Conference in May, when they realized that their mobile phone accounts had been hijacked.
West said that Ortiz was arrested when investigators learned he was planning to return to Boston and then fly to Europe. Detective "were aware that he was planning to go to an electronic music festival in Belgium," said West. "He missed it." He can not be happy with that. "
A sworn statement presented by Caleb Tuttle, the investigative agent in the case, said Ortiz admitted he had spent $ 150,000 in Los Angeles for several weeks before his arrest. The police also seized another $ 250,000 in cryptocurrency from Ortiz. Tuttle said Ortiz talked about working with co-designers who "probably have access to millions of dollars in cryptocurrency".