‘Evil mastermind of $24 million cyberscam was Ellis Pinsky, 15’
The “evil mastermind” and his crew “struck hard and quickly” to steal $24 million and launder it on currency exchanges. But the alleged ringleader did not look particularly like Tony Soprano.
Ellis Pinsky was 15 years old, in high school and living at his mother’s house in a respectable area of suburban New York.
Now, three years after the alleged crime, Mr Pinsky is being pursued in a lawsuit by a wealthy entrepreneur who claims to be his victim, alleging that the boy hacked his phone to siphon off his millions.
He looks like an all-American boy, the suit against him says. “The son of privilege, he is active in extracurricular activities and lives a suburban life with a doting mother who is a prominent doctor.”
He had developed a taste for private jet travel, luxury cars and eye-wateringly expensive watches, it says. It alleges that he kept a large quantity of cash hidden in his bedroom.
The suit against Mr Pinsky, who is now 18 and about to finish school, was filed by Michael Terpin, an entrepreneur who was an early investor in digital currencies. He says he lost nearly $24 million to hackers who gained control of his smartphone and accessed his cryptocurrency accounts.
Last year Mr Terpin won a $75.8 million civil judgment in relation to the alleged theft against Nick Truglia, then 21, who also faces criminal charges of wire fraud.
In his new lawsuit Mr Terpin identifies the teenager from the New York suburbs as Mr Truglia’s accomplice.
It alleges that Mr Pinsky began hacking computers in his early teens and progressed to “Sim-swaps” or “Sim-jacking”, in which hackers trick or bribe the employee of a mobile phone company to clone their target’s Sim card.
Their victim’s phone goes dead; the hackers then access their digital accounts and transfer funds to anonymous accounts.
The lawsuit portrays the alleged gang, which included Mr Pinsky, as video game enthusiasts, part of an online crew that called itself the “original gangsters”, who began to see the hacks as a game in themselves.
By Will Pavia, , 26 May 2020, Published on The Times