People v. UngAnnotate this Case
Ung stole cryptocurrencies from multiple victims in 2018, exploiting a common website security feature: A user can prompt a website hosting an account to send a text message to the user’s phone with a security code that temporarily allows access to the account. Ung employed “SIM swapping” in which the thief tricks the victim’s phone carrier into switching the victim’s phone number to a SIM card in the thief’s phone. The thief then prompts the website hosting the victim’s financial account to send a temporary security code to the hijacked phone; the thief accesses the account and transfers the assets.
In 2021, Ung pleaded no contest to identity theft, attempted grand theft, and 10 counts of felony grand theft. He admitted a white-collar crime enhancement; he committed three offenses after his bail was revoked. The court imposed a 10-year prison term, entered a general restitution order, and later ordered Ung to make restitution by transferring cryptocurrencies to the victims in the same kinds and amounts he had stolen. Ung argued the order violated his due process rights to notice. He estimates the value of the cryptocurrencies was about $1.56 million when he stole them; the value was about $15.9 million by the time of the restitution hearing.
The court of appeal affirmed. Under the statute, the value of stolen property is the replacement cost of like property. By stealing the victims’ cryptocurrency, Ung deprived them of the ability to sell it for a profit after its value increased; whatever profits they lost were a direct consequence of Ung’s conduct.