Fact Check: Computer Hacker Hamza Bendelladj Was NOT Executed -- As Of May 2024 He Still Serves His Prison Term

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Computer Hacker Hamza Bendelladj Was NOT Executed --  As Of May 2024 He Still Serves His Prison Term Still Inmate

Was Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian hacker who gained notoriety in the 2010s, executed? No, that's not true: As of this writing, he was still serving his sentence in a federal prison in the United States. The crimes he was convicted of did not include any that are punishable by the death penalty.

The claim reappeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on April 30, 2024. It began:


This is Hamza Bendelladj, hacked

217 banks and more than 400 million

USD. Donated everything to Africa

and Palestine, executed with a smile.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-05-02 at 10.44.17 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu May 2 14:44:17 2024 UTC)

Hamza Bendelladj, a native of Algeria, was extradited to the United States in 2013 from Thailand where he had been photographed smiling at cameras at the time of his arrest. For that, Bendelladj was dubbed a "happy hacker" on the internet.

The image reused in the post on Facebook is one of his photos taken at the time (archived here).

As of this writing, the Federal Bureau of Prisons website listed Bendelladj as an inmate at a California facility. The record included the upcoming release date set for mid-summer 2024.

Contrary to the claim, Bendelladj has never been sentenced to death.

In April 2016, a federal court in Atlanta sentenced him to 15 years in prison for his role in developing and distributing the SpyEye malware. According to the press release (archived here) issued by the Department of Justice, this computer virus was used to infect "50 million computers, causing close to $1 billion in financial harm to individuals and financial institutions around the globe."

Since then, only two foreign nationals (archived here) have been executed in the United States, according to the national database maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center. Neither of them were Hamza Bendelladj.

The Department of Justice (archived here) clarifies that "the death penalty can only be imposed on defendants convicted of capital offenses." Neither cyber crimes nor theft are among them.

Utilizing PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), Lead Stories reviewed other court materials mentioning Bendelladj, and none of his cases discussed capital offenses.

The claim that is the focus of this fact check is not new. It was first documented in 2015 (archived here).

Other Lead Stories fact checks about technology can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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