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NYC man charged in $1 million Bay Area cryptocurrency theft

A Manhattan man who once drew infamy by questionably accusing his friends of torturing him for bitcoin has been charged in Santa Clara County with using SIM swapping to steal $1 million from a San Francisco man in the latest high-profile instance of the new-age theft tactic.
It was an ironic twist for Nicholas Truglia, 21, now suspected in at least 11 cases across the country where he allegedly commandeered his victims’ smartphones and then impersonated them to access their personal information, including bank access. Seven of those cases were reported in California, including a victim in Cupertino and the San Francisco man, who is the suspect’s only California victim to register a financial loss.
Court filings show that Truglia has been charged in Santa Clara County with 21 felony counts related to hacking into the smartphones of at least five victims, resulting from the work of REACT task force, a Bay Area tech-crime detective squad run out of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors believe many victims are typically targeted because of their involvement in the field or industry of cryptocurrency.
West and her office have been aggressive in prosecuting SIM swap cases so long that suspects have at least one local victim, giving them jurisdiction.
“The important thing for these SIM swappers to know is that REACT is operating on a national level,” said Erin West, the Santa Clara County deputy district attorney who prosecutes many of the REACT cases. “Anyone who victimizes someone from Santa Clara County will be investigated and prosecuted no matter where in the country you are.”
The San Francisco victim is a father of two who had stored $500,000 in each of two digital banks, Gemini and Coinbase. On Oct. 26, he contacted REACT after discovering he had been the victim of SIM swapping.
SIM swapping occurs when a hacker convinces a mobile phone carrier to transfer access of a target’s phone number from the registered SIM card — the small portable chip that houses identification information connecting an account to the cell network — to another SIM card the hacker provides.
The con is typically achieved either by having an inside source at the carrier, by getting someone to open a phishing email, or by reciting personal information mined from social media accounts. By having access to a person’s smartphone, particularly text messages, a digital intruder can bypass many online security measures.
REACT, staffed by investigators from the DA’s office and Sheriff’s Office in Santa Clara County, got on the case thanks in part to a growing national reputation for its criminal tech probes , particularly with SIM swapping. They obtained a series of search warrants that linked the smartphone involved in the SIM swaps to Truglia, and on Nov. 14, REACT detectives and U.S. Secret Service agents went to his high-rise condo on 42nd Street in the heart of Manhattan.
“They woke him up and arrested him,” West said.
During their search, West said, authorities found a digital hardware wallet that contained $300,000 in cryptocurrency presumably belonging to several of Truglia’s alleged victims, including the one in San Francisco.
West said Truglia has refused to waive extradition to Santa Clara County, and remains in custody at the Manhattan Detention Complex, where he is being held without bail. The next extradition for the suspect is Dec. 13.
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Truglia grabbed headlines in his native New York City earlier this month when he accused four of his friends of torturing him to force him to give up his bitcoin account information, only for the accusation to be shown as questionable at best, with the defendants’ attorney claiming Truglia recanted the claim.
In the case of the San Francisco man, he had put away the $1 million for his two daughters’ college funds. By the time he was able to confirm that he had been SIM swapped with his wireless carrier, the money had been converted into cryptocurrency, and moved from his account.
“The tragedy here is any one of us can be a victim. On any given day, someone can steal your life savings,” West said. “This person put aside for his children’s education. This is devastating for people.”

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