Arizona has filed an indictment against hacker Randall Tucker, known online as the “Bitcoin Baron,” charging him with three counts of intentional damage to a protected computer and one count of threatening damage to a protected computer. That “protected computer” was News2Share’s own server.
On October 8th, 2014 Randal Tucker, operating under the name “Key Last” sent an email to News2Share managing editor Ford Fischer asking for a video submission to be posted on the website. When Fischer ignored the email, Tucker followed up with a threat three hours later under a new email address to shut down the website.
Immediately, News2Share was down.
Fischer was able to restore the website in the next two hours, but Tucker managed to shut it down again. And again. And again.
Tucker was apparently motivated by News2Share’s posting of two videos sent to Fischer by members of the hacker group Anonymous. Both videos had enormous international attention, and Fischer pledged to the groups not to reveal the identities of the dozens of hackers he was regularly communicating with.
The threats continued for a week and then came to a halt. It appeared Tucker had stopped. Over the next few weeks, Fischer reported the crime to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, as Arizona’s government computers were threatened in one of the submissions. Two of the four counts he’d later be indicted on were against government computers in Arizona.
Then, Christmas Day, 2014, while Fischer was on route to his grandfather’s house for Christmas, he received another email.
“So it’s up to you if you wanna face my 250Gbps Packets or upload this video and share it to get it more VIRAL.”
“Remember me back when I threatened to shut down your site if you didn’t post my videos? Yeah that’s me. So now I’m doing it again, because you aren’t helping at all.”
Tucker was now operating under the name “Bitcoin Baron.” He included a new video, and a new threat. “So it’s up to you if you wanna face my 250Gbps Packets or upload this video and share it to get it more VIRAL. Now I don’t like to threaten, but if it means to help FDS, then I will do what I must. As always RIP the video like you did with the other ones, as I will not provide a Raw copy.”
“FDS” refers to Freeze Don’t Shoot, a movement Ford Fischer and former News2Share News Director Trey Yingst had covered together in a short documentary. The video Tucker wanted posted was of a SWAT team shooting a dog in a raid over marijuana.
Fischer this time simply didn’t respond, and instead contacted Detective Travis Meadows of the ADPS, and the FBI. Over the next few months, Tucker operated as the Bitcoin Baron and created social media accounts on Facebook and Youtube flaunting damage he did to a number of companies and governments including Sea World and allegedly even a children’s hospital. To this day, the Bitcoin Baron Twitter account is still online. Meanwhile, Fischer participated in conference calls with the FBI and ADPS working to identify him.
Additionally, Fischer spotted the same video that Tucker wanted released on Counter Current News, who had apparently received the same threat and complied with it. Fischer confirmed with CCN’s team who confirmed “Yes, he sent us the same message. I told him there was no need to threaten as it was something we would have put up anyway.”
During this time, The Observer reporter Jack Smith IV investigated “Bitcoin Baron’s” work. One of his crimes, for which he was never charged, included defacing a children’s hospital website with child pornography. Below is a leaked conversation Smith uncovered between Tucker and two other hackers.
[3/12/2015 8:04:49 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: Who wants to see thechildrens hospital getting DDoSed?
[3/12/2015 8:05:29 PM] Van: dont do it devilz
[3/12/2015 8:05:37 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: already am
[3/12/2015 8:05:38 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: LOL
[3/12/2015 8:05:38 PM] Van: thats so wrong
[3/12/2015 8:05:41 PM] Van: stop
[3/12/2015 8:05:49 PM] – intrusi0n: lol
[3/12/2015 8:05:55 PM] Van: destroying a place that helps children isreally cold blooded
[3/12/2015 8:06:05 PM] Van: how could you do that
[3/12/2015 8:06:17 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron: I’m heartless
[3/12/2015 8:10:43 PM] Kozy: don’t do it
[3/12/2015 8:10:48 PM] ÐëVîÎZ Bitcoin Baron:https://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/
Other hacks Jack Smith IV uncovered included demanding 100 bitcoins from the city of Moore, Oklahoma to demand justice for a man who died in police custody, downing a number of IRC chat rooms for other hacktivists and gaming groups, and taking down a municipal site in Texas to demand a local police officer be put in jail. The officer had already been jailed one year prior to the threat.
Tucker then became more sloppy. On April 3rd, a big break came when Tucker sent an email to Fischer including a list of websites he’d taken down, and a list of his accomplices. Fischer didn’t reply, but instead forwarded it to Detective Meadows and the FBI. Now able to monitor all of his accomplices, the agencies found one who referred to him as “Randy Tucker” online. Tucker’s house was raided less than a week later, revealing evidence of the hacking. The probable cause statement can be found here.
Fischer responded on ABC 15, where he called Tucker a “relatively young, relatively inexperienced idiot,” on his local cable station. The tools Tucker used to perpetrate the hack were widely available, and reports have indicated that other hackers viewed him as reckless and inexperienced.
As it turns out, Tucker was already awaiting sentencing in a case of aggravated assault for stabbing his own father. While unconfirmed, it’s possible that Tucker intentionally allowed himself to be identified before having to return to jail, or worse.
In a video and transcript uncovered by Jack Smith IV, it became clear that Tucker suffered from serious mental problems. It was revealed that in the months before, he had attempted suicide by pills, and invited the hacker community to watch.
[11/03/15 20.24.57] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: 6 pills down
[11/03/15 20.25.06] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: wanna watch?
[11/03/15 20.25.10] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: xD
[11/03/15 20.26.15] ∆: Sure
[11/03/15 20.26.18] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: LOL
[11/03/15 20.26.20] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: kk hold on
[11/03/15 20.26.40] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: you think im bsing right?
[11/03/15 20.26.45] ∆: Not really
[11/03/15 20.26.47] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: lmao
[11/03/15 20.26.53] ∆: a bit maybe since a lot of people have faked
[11/03/15 20.26.59] ÐëVîÎZ – Bitcoin Baron: lol well im trying to do it
[11/03/15 20.27.09] ∆: show it then
Tucker has awaited charges in the hackings while serving his sentence for the stabbing since April 2015. As his sentence is now finishing, he’s been indicted be a federal grand jury on four hacking charges. In USA v Randall Charles Tucker (case number CR16-1065-PHX-DLR (BSB)), he faces a maximum of 40 years in prison. The Associated Press reported that it’s unknown whether Tucker has an attorney. It is also unclear whether Ford Fischer will be called to testify, or whether Tucker will have a plea agreement rather than a trial.