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DOJ Charges 25-Year-Old with Stealing $450,000 in NFTs and Crypto from OpenSea

Hassan Shittu
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: iStock

A Moroccan man, Soufiane Oulahyane, aged 25, has been charged by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for his alleged involvement in stealing approximately $450,000 worth of cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 

Oulahyane is accused of creating a fake version of the popular marketplace OpenSea, tricking victims into providing their private crypto wallet keys.

According to the DOJ statement, Oulahyane paid for advertisements that ensured his fraudulent OpenSea website appeared as the top result on search engines when users searched for “OpenSea.” 

He then convinced people to input their wallet keys, unknowingly handing over access to their cryptocurrency. 

Damian Williams, the U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, referred to this act as “spoofing,” a classic criminal technique adapted for the crypto space.

While Oulahyane is currently in custody in Morocco on foreign charges, he has been indicted by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, and the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Christie M. Curtis.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Soufiane Oulahyane used a common cybercrime technique to steal victim cryptocurrency and NFTs.  ‘Spoofing’ is one of the oldest tricks in the criminal playbook. The charges unsealed today should serve as a reminder that digital assets, such as cryptocurrency and NFTs, are not immune from cyber fraudsters and that my Office is committed to prosecuting these fraudsters both here and abroad.” 

FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Christie M. Curtis emphasized the FBI’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for malicious cyberattacks against U.S. interests, regardless of their location. 

Oulahyane is facing four counts, including wire fraud, the use of an unauthorized access device, aggravated identity theft, and effecting transactions with an access device to receive something of value that is equal to or greater than $1,000. 

If found guilty, he could potentially face a lengthy prison sentence.

The Spoofing Method Used By Oulahyane to Steal $450,000

Oulahyane’s alleged exploit reportedly resulted in the theft of $450,000 worth of NFTs and cryptocurrency from a victim based in Manhattan in 2021. 

The charges against Oulahyane stem from an incident in September 2021 when the victim unknowingly accessed Oulahyane’s spoofed version of the OpenSea login page, believing it to be the legitimate website. 

As a result, the victim inadvertently provided their cryptocurrency wallet’s seed phrase to Oulahyane, granting him unauthorized access. 

Oulahyane swiftly transferred the victim’s cryptocurrency to another wallet and sold 39 of the victim’s NFTs on the OpenSea marketplace, redirecting the fraudulent proceeds.

Among the illicitly obtained NFTs sold were items from the Bored Ape Yacht Club series, including one purchased by the victim for approximately 49 ETH. 

Other NFTs sold by Oulahyane included a Meebit purchased for 9.88 ETH, a Bored Ape Kennel Club NFT bought for 6 ETH, and an NFT from the CryptoDad series acquired for 1.789 ETH.

The legal proceedings against Oulahyane highlight the increasing need for vigilance in the crypto space and the efforts of law enforcement agencies to hold cybercriminals accountable for their actions.