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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 3, 2024

The ‘happy hacker’ lives. Hamza Bendelladj wasn’t executed.

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  • Hamza Bendelladj wasn’t executed. As of May 3, he was still serving his federal prison sentence in California with a projected  July 6 release date.

Hamza Bendelladj — aka the "happy hacker" — was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years in prison for his role in developing and distributing what the FBI called "a prolific piece of malware" that caused the global financial industry hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. 

But a recent Facebook post claims that Bendelladj, who earned his nickname because he was smiling after his arrest, was executed instead. 

"Did you know?" reads text below an image of Bendelladj in the April 30 post. "This is Hamza Bendelladj, hacked 217 banks and more than 400 million USD. Donated everything to Africa and Palestine, executed with a smile." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Bendelladj is still in prison. PolitiFact found him in the Federal Bureau of Prisons database of inmates. He’s housed at a facility in San Pedro, California, with a July 6 expected release date.

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In 2021, Agence France-Presse fact-checked a similar social media claim, which said that Bendelladj "extracted $4 billion from 217 different banks and donated it all to poor countries and Palestine. He was arrested in Bangkok and sentenced to 15 years in prison with a smile." 

But available court documents don’t give any indication of what Bendelladj did with the money he stole, Agence France-Presse reported. Police in Thailand, where Bendelladj was arrested in 2013 before he was extradited to the United States, said he told them he had "spent it on traveling and a luxurious life like flying first class staying in luxury places," according to Agence France-Presse. 

Al Jazeera said in a 2015 story, "Several reports online claimed that Bendelladj used the money to fund various Palestinian charities. … Following his extradition, rumors began to circulate online that Bendelladj was facing the death penalty for his crimes." 

Sixteen people have been executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. Bendelladj was not listed among the people executed. 

We rate claims he was executed False.


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The ‘happy hacker’ lives. Hamza Bendelladj wasn’t executed.

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