Spanish judge questions Twitter hack suspect wanted by US

MADRID — A British man charged in the United States in connection with a Twitter hack last year that compromised dozens of influential accounts is set to appear before a Spanish judge Thursday.

Joseph O’Connor, 22, is set to be questioned via videoconference from Estepona, the southern Spanish resort town where police arrested him on Wednesday on a U.S. arrest warrant, a Spanish National Court spokesman said.

U.S. prosecutors accuse O’Connor of involvement in a July 2020 hack of more than 130 accounts, including those of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court in the Northern District of California also charges O’Connor for hacks taking over Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat accounts, as well as cyberstalking a juvenile.

The Madrid-based National Court handles extradition requests in Spain. A court spokesman, who was not authorized to be named in media reports, said that the judge will decide whether O’Connor should remain in custody while awaiting extradition procedures.

Those procedures can take months before being resolved and involve both a judicial review and the Spanish Cabinet’s approval.

The FBI informed Spanish authorities about O’Connor’s alleged involvement in last summer’s hack, the National Police said in a press release. It said Spanish and U.S. agents took part in his arrest and search of the suspect’s residence, confiscating two computers and a mobile phone.

The U.S. criminal complaint charged O’Connor — who went by the online handle PlugWalkJoe — with crimes including cyberstalking, making extortive and threatening communications and intentionally accessing a computer without authorization.

O’Connor has denied wrongdoing in previous interviews. His lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached.

During the high-profile security breach a year ago, fake tweets were sent from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon’s then-CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The bogus tweets asked followers of high-profile accounts to send Bitcoin payments. O’Connor is at least the fourth suspect charged in connection with the hack.

Spain’s National Police said Thursday that O’Connor was permanently residing in Marbella, another southern coastal city popular with foreign residents and that he had been on their radar at least since April 2020 as part of an alleged criminal group committing fraud online.

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