Two British schoolboys stole nearly $1m in Bitcoin and families refused to give it back, US lawsuit claims

Benedict Thompson and Oliver Read allegedly took 16.4 Bitcoins from victim

Two British schoolboys stole around $1m worth of Bitcoin from a Colorado man’s digital wallet and their families have refused to hand it back, a lawsuit claims.

Benedict Thompson and Oliver Read are accused in US court papers of being behind the 2018 theft, when they were still minors.

Andrew Schober alleges that he downloaded a crypto-wallet called “Electrum Atom”, and when he tried to transfer over 16.4 Bitcoins, which as of Thursday was worth around $770,000, computer malware they had designed instead directed it into an account they controlled.

“Here, Mr Schober believed he was communicating only with his own cryptocurrency wallet,” the lawsuit states.

“But because of the Malware, either Benedict or Oliver or both intercepted and altered the communications between Mr. Schober and the Bitcoin blockchain.”

Mr Benedict is described in the court papers as being from Southampton, Hampshire, and “currently studying Computer Science at the University of Warwick.”

Mr Read is described as being from Bradford, West Yorkshire, and studied computer science at Greenhead College in Huddersfield.

The lawsuit states that Mr Schober spent $10,000 tracking down who he believes stole the Bitcoin, and sent a letter their parents asking for it to be returned.

“It seems your son has been using malware to steal money from people online,” the letter to the parents, which was included in court papers, reads.

“We have all the evidence necessary to implicate his guilt ... ask him yourselves. He might have thought he was playing a harmless joke, but it has had serious consequences for my life.”

In the lawsuit Mr Schober describes the impact that the alleged theft has had on his life.

“He did not eat or sleep for days afterward and has been in a severe state of distress for the past three years,” it states.

“The cryptocurrency accounted for approximately 95 per cent of his net wealth at the time it was stolen from him.

“Mr Schober was planning to use the proceeds from his eventual sale of the cryptocurrency to help finance a home and support his family.”

When he did not receive any communication from the families, Mr Schober filed his civil lawsuit in the US District Court in Colorado in May.

In August, lawyers for Hazel Davina Wells, the mother of Oliver Read, filed court papers that argued that the two year statute of limitations had passed before Mr Schober filed his case and asked a judge to dismiss the claim.

The Independent has reached out to the family of Oliver Read for comment.

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