A young Scot is facing extradition to America and up to 20 years in jail if convicted of a £7million cryptocurrency fraud.
Robert Barr, 24, is charged with scamming the digital cash from a top US Bitcoin broker while he was living with his mum in Ayrshire after an FBI manhunt.
US prosecutors claim the computer whizzkid stole the huge sum from Boston-based cryptocurrency dealer Reggie Middleton and transferred it to another account.
They claim he worked with two others in an elaborate con known as “sim swapping”, where fraudsters dupe mobile phone firms into handing over details of customers’ SIM cards so they can then hack into cryptocurrency accounts or wallets.
Barr is wanted in Georgia on the scam, part of eight charges that include wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.
The Sunday Mail can reveal Barr – who was arrested by Scottish police, remanded in custody and then freed on bail – last week lost a legal bid at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to have the case thrown out.
He looks set to face an extradition hearing later this year.
While Barr’s mum and stepdad claim they know nothing about his alleged crimes, one former friend revealed how the baby-faced Xbox fan has been part of a teenage group who called themselves “The Hackers”.
He said: “We used to play at hackers when we were younger, going into people’s social media accounts, but Robert would always take it too far.
“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.
“I don’t think Robert fully understood the severity of his actions and saw it as just stuff happening on his computer.”
The alleged cryptocurrency frauds involving Barr are said to have taken place in May and July 2017 and details of the US charges, obtained by the Sunday Mail, stretched to 13 pages.
Barr and another man are charged with devising a scheme to use the victim’s mobile number to access his email and other accounts. From there, they are accused of changing his passwords and locating his cryptocurrency addresses.
Barr and the gang are then alleged to have transferred the currency to their own cryptocurrency accounts. The football fan and another accused, American Anthony Frances Faulks, are alleged to have used the same scam to dupe a second unnamed victim to hack her phone in May 2017.
It’s claimed they then used the stolen number to access email accounts and change passwords. From there, they are said to have transferred cryptocurrency worth more than £485,000 to accounts of their own.
Barr and others are then alleged to have divided the proceeds among themselves to “conceal their identity” and the “illegal transfer of funds”.
Barr was arrested in February last year after a request to Scottish police from America.
He 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 to October when he was given bail to the home of his mum Sallyann Gilchrist in Kilbirnie.
Last month, his defense team failed in a bid at the same court to have the arrest warrant thrown out.
No further date has been set for the extradition case but it’s understood it might not be until November. The case has already been investigated by a grand jury in Georgia in 2020, when the charges against him were drawn up.
A co-accused of Barr called Corey De Rose, a 22-year-old Londoner who has Asperger’s, won his extradition battle in January. He is also alleged to have hacked into the cryptocurrency account of Middleton in 2017. A court in London refused to send him to the US because of his health issues.
The Sunday Mail tried to speak to Barr at the family home in Kilbirnie, where mum Sallyann declined to comment.
His stepdad Sean Gilchrist claimed they were not aware of any extradition proceedings against Robert.
He said: “He only stayed here for two months. He doesn’t stay here any more. I don’t know where he is.”
We also tried other addresses for Barr in Renfrewshire but he was unable to be reached for comment.
The Crown Office in Edinburgh, which is handling the extradition on behalf of the US government, said: “These proceedings are ongoing.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.