Chicago man accused in $400 million FTX crypto hack freed on bail (Part-1)

A The Chicago man charged with hacking FTX for $400 million was sent home Friday and ordered to avoid non-essential internet use and online gambling.

A federal indictment released this week in Washington charged Robert Powell, 26, of Highland Park with engaging in a complex “SIM swap” operation that stole $400 million in virtual money from a single corporation and millions more from other victims.

In the Tribune's Tuesday story, the indictment called the business "Victim Company 1," however the alleged breach happened Nov. 11, 2022, the day FTX, controlled by now-convicted fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, went bankrupt.

At the time, insider hacking was widely suspected. Powell reportedly victimized FTX, a source told the Tribune on Friday. Powell, from Elkhart, Indiana, was secretly apprehended in Chicago last week while the indictment was sealed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

He answered the judge's bail questions clearly at a detention hearing Friday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in red-and-white prison garb. Powell must stay home except for court or medical appointments and can only use one device to access the internet to connect with relatives or find jobs.

His attorney, Gal Pissetzky, told U.S. Magistrate Judge David Weisman that Powell made most of his money gaming, which he cannot do without internet. He also suggested the authorities blocked Powell's assets and he'd hunt for work after release.

Washington had no preliminary court date as of Friday. After the hearing, Pissetzky said he's looking forward to analyzing the case's "extremely voluminous discovery" with Powell. Powell was indicted with three others for wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.

Records show Carter Rohn, 24, of Indianapolis, and Emily Hernandez, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, were accused. They were detained last week and appeared in federal court in their hometowns.

Keep an eye out for more updates!