Is Guccifer dead?
Anyone poking around on Twitter on Wednesday may have come across the news that the Romanian hacker who allegedly revealed Hillary Clinton's unsecured email went missing -- or was found dead in his jail cell, whichever version of the story they found. The story seemed to fit a shadowy conspiracy theory to allow Clinton to rise to the presidency, something out of a political thriller novel.
There's a good reason it sounded that way. The story that Guccifer was killed was a hoax, one possibly connected to conspiracy theories claiming that Hillary Clinton pulled strings behind the scenes to avoid facing charges for her use of the unauthorized email server, which may have put American secrets at risk.
Guccifer, whose real name is Marcel Lazăr Lehel, had claimed that he hacked his way into Clinton's private email server and through that gained computer accounts of a number of other prominent world figures, NBC News reported.
He was extradited to the United States this spring and entered guilty pleas to charges of identity theft and unauthorized access to protected computers, including one that belonged to a former U.S. cabinet member.
Officials hailed his conviction as a measure to make the United States safer from cybercrime.
"Cybercriminals like Marcel Lazar believe they can act with impunity from safe havens abroad, but the Justice Department's partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world ensure that they can be brought to justice," said Leslie Caldwell, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division.
But amid Guccifer's conviction, there were rumors that the true reason he was extradited to the United States was to serve as something of a star witness against Hillary Clinton.
The story claiming that Guccifer was dead originally appeared on the website Don't Comply, but the story itself was later erased and replaced with an error message.