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Thief used burner iPhones and Apple Pay to purchase luxury goods, Bitcoin, and diamond-encrusted jewelry

Image Credit: Apple

Using stolen credit cards and Apple Pay, one identity thief was able to purchase more than $600,000 in luxury goods and nearly $100,000 of Bitcoin.

After purchasing more than 500 stolen credit-card numbers from the dark web, Atlanta resident Aaron Laws found himself at the center of an elaborate scheme that would land him in federal prison for three years.

Laws entered the stolen credit card numbers into burner phones equipped with Apple Pay, allowing him to make purchases without presenting a physical card. According to MarketWatch, Laws also enlisted several co-conspirators, including his childhood friends, Dennison Ellis and Jeffrey Mayfield.

Between February 2017 and December 2018, Laws and his co-conspirators purchased more than $600,000 in luxury goods, including MacBooks, iPhones, a $35,000 Rolex watch, and a diamond-encrusted medallion shaped like a Bitcoin symbol. They targeted several locations, including the Apple Store and Best Buy, as well as jewelry stores across eight states.

Laws' diamond-encrusted Bitcoin medallion | Source: U.S. Attorney's Office
Laws' diamond-encrusted Bitcoin medallion | Source: U.S. Attorney's Office

On August 23, 2017, Laws purchased $93,000 worth of Bitcoin. At the time, Bitcoin was worth around $4000 per Bitcoin. In today's market, Laws' purchase would be worth nearly $745,000, assuming a price of $32,000 per Bitcoin.

Laws pleaded guilty, noting that he had "clearly made many poor decisions in this case." Laws struggled with depression and substance abuse after a knee injury prevented him from playing college basketball.

Laws was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $624,000 in restitution.

Laws' co-conspirators, Ellis and Mayfield, also pleaded guilty. Ellis was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay $283,000 in restitution. Mayfield also was sentenced to jail time and ordered to pay $181,000.

Recently, a rash of iPhone thefts in Brazil served as yet another cautionary tale for users who store passwords in an unsecured location on their device.

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