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British ‘crypto-hacker’, 24, who lives with his mum now at centre of FBI extradition probe

Bitcoin fraud: Victim discusses ‘warning bells’

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FBI agents claim Robert Barr scammed digital cash from a top US Bitcoin broker, among a string of other offences, while he was living with his mum in Ayrshire.

US prosecutors say the 24-year-old stole the seven-figure sum from Reggie Middleton – a Boston-based cryptocurrency dealer and transferred it to a separate account.

He is said to have worked with two others in an intricate con known as “sim swapping”, where hackers trick mobile phone firms into handing over details of their customers’ SIM cards.

The fraudsters then hack into the cryptocurrency accounts of the users or their wallets.

The computer whizz kid is wanted in the state of Georgia for the scam, as well as another seven charges including money laundering, identity theft and wire fraud.

Mr Barr was arrested by Scottish Police in February 2021, after a request from the US, and was remanded in custody but then later freed on bail – but last week lost a legal bid at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to have the case thrown out.

While his mum and stepdad claim they knew nothing about his alleged crimes, one of his former friends revealed how the skilled techy was part of a group who called themselves “The Hackers” during his teenage years.

He said: “We used to play at hackers when we were younger, going into people’s social media accounts.

“We were young, around 15-16ish, and, for me, it was fun. I liked things with fancy usernames so hacked Skype, Snapchats, stuff like that. You could take the accounts, often inactive and unused, so no loss to anyone, and sell them to other people who wanted that username”.

The long list of alleged cryptocurrency crimes are believed to have taken place in May and July 2017, when Barr and another accused hacker, American Anthony Frances Faulks, are accused of devising a scheme to use the victim’s mobile number to access his email and other accounts.

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It is believed the two savvy hackers swindled a second person of more than £485,000 with the same scam and are alleged to have divided the proceeds among themselves to “conceal their identity” and the “illegal transfer of funds”.

After he was arrested last year, Barr appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and was remanded in custody before extradition proceedings were formally started in April last year.

The following month he appeared by video link from prison and the case was continued until October when he was given bail to the home of his mum Sallyann Gilchrist in Kilbirnie.

Mr Barr looks set to face an extradition hearing later this year, believed to possibly be in November. However, no formal date has been set just yet.

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