In January 2018, a team of some half-dozen computer hackers — scattered across Europe and the United States — scammed their way into Michael Terpin’s cryptocurrency account, fleeced it and laundered the funds: some $23.8 million, according to a bombshell lawsuit.
Allegedly at the center of the heist was Westchester teen Ellis Pinsky. According to papers filed May 7 in Manhattan federal court, Pinsky is “an evil mastermind.” The suit asks for $71.4 million.
The wildest part? Ellis was just 15 years old at the time of the theft.
To neighbors and classmates at Irvington HS, he was an ordinary 10th-grader who ran track, played soccer, loved cool sneakers and got good grades. Ellis’ bedroom in the $1.3 million home he shared with his family, including his NYU Langone-physician mother, had three computer monitors for playing his favorite games, Counter-Strike and Call of Duty.
But according to an insider, there was at least one unusual thing about Ellis. As related in the complaint, he once allegedly wrote to an acquaintance, “I could buy you and all your family. I have 100 million dollars.” The complaint also alleges that an accomplice saw, in December 2017, “records indicating that Ellis had $70 million.”
Pals outside the heist apparently viewed Ellis as a virtual-money wunderkind. “His best friend thought he was making money through trading Bitcoin and stock,” the insider said.
But the complaint alleges that Ellis was the apparent ringleader in the scheme against Terpin, who is a pioneer in the world of cryptocurrency: “In his early teens, [Ellis] began hacking computers with the mission of accessing his victims’ private accounts where they store their cryptocurrency holdings or private information.”
Ellis’ attorney, Noam Biale, told The Post: “Ellis was a child at the time of the alleged conduct . . . It is deeply unfortunate that Mr. Terpin has chosen to bring [a] lawsuit, full of smears and baseless allegations, for no imaginable purpose other than spite.”
Video games were allegedly the teen’s gateway to crime. “Ellis is a gamer. That was his primary interest,” the insider said, adding that private video-game chatrooms — where Ellis was allegedly a regular — on platforms such as Discord and Skype are often full of people bragging about hacks. “From there he got interested in stealing cool usernames.”
Using a technique known as SIM-swapping, hackers remotely transfer a victim’s digital identity from the SIM card that controls the victim’s phone to a blank SIM card in one of the hackers’ phones. Sometimes this is done to steal a victim’s social-media identity, as “OG handles” — such as @A or @evil — can be sold for big bucks.
Ellis also allegedly used SIM-swapping to steal cryptocurrency. Going from nicking names to pulling off multimillion-dollar heists is not that much of a leap, the…