From High Life Hackers to National Menace: The Rise and Fall of Digital Bandits 'ACG'

Hackers 'ACG' popped champagne and bought sports cars. Then the group and its associates ushered in a bold new era of crime where anything is possible.
A collage of images obtained by 404 Media.
Image: 404 Media.

Braiden Williams stood in L’Arc, a highly exclusive nightclub in the heart of Paris, surrounded by half a dozen women who could be supermodels. But all Williams did was stare at his phone. 

L’Arc hosts parties around Paris Fashion Week, and is often a venue of choice for celebrities like Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg. Williams should have felt he fitted right in—he certainly had more than enough money for the bottles of Dom Pérignon which sat in ice buckets next to him and the women. One L’Arc employee chanted the name of Williams’ crew “A C G” over and over again, before the worker put a wine glass in between his own teeth, tilted his head back, and then poured yet more Dom. At one point a group of more beautiful women holding lit sparklers glided across the dance floor as electronic music thumped. They were followed by a man holding a large sign that read “ACG” and “Braiden.” Another sign, flanked by two women holding yet more champagne, read “Braiden Run This Shit.”

Williams was the star of the night. But he looked entirely out of place. Williams had a distinctive bowl-cut. His neck jutted out like someone who hunched over their computer for much of the day. He looked like a goofy teenager rather than an experienced clubber.


A video obtained by 404 Media of Williams' trip to L'Arc. 404 Media has blurred faces of L'Arc employees at the club's request to protect them from retaliation.

ACG and Braiden weren’t L’Arc’s typical clientele. ACG is a group of alleged hackers who the FBI says are responsible for a wave of Bitcoin thefts and other crimes. Williams' group, which has around six members, are a 21st century version of bank robbers. Instead of a gang lifting physical cash from a vault, these opportunists work together to quickly take over a target’s phone number, intercept their login codes, then pilfer any cryptocurrency they own before the victim has much of a chance to react at all. Williams' role was allegedly transferring the target’s phone number to his own device in those multi-stage heists. And ACG pulled them off again and again: this trip to L’Arc and Europe, as well as Williams’ multiple high-end sports cars, was funded by those thefts. 

Williams didn’t know it at that point, standing in the club in mid-2022, but soon after returning home from Europe to the U.S., he would come face to face with the FBI agents tracking him down. Instead of laying low, Williams would ramp up his activity, going beyond hacking to allegedly order physical violence and make bomb threats against universities across the country.

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Williams’ crimes are not isolated to one young hacker who had more money than he knew what to do with. Nor is his story only about the rise of one group like ACG, which continues to strike fear into the broader community it is a splinter of, known as the “Comm.” Williams is part of a rapid and massive convergence between two traditionally separate sectors of crime. People like Willams have combined the frictionless, sophisticated world of cybercrime with the blunt brutality of physical violence, sprouting an entirely new area of the underground where essentially anything is possible. Hackers are no longer just people behind a keyboard. They have guns now, and innocent people are getting hurt.

Back in the nightclub, while a man next to Williams cheered on the L’Arc staff who poured the champagne, Williams continued to stare at his phone. He grinned into the device’s screen. That was his world.