Authorities seized about $9 million in crypto, which was earned by taking advantage of over 70 victims nationwide through alleged “pig butchering” schemes.
A pig-butchering scam is an investment fraud that tricks people into investing their money in seemingly legitimate and lucrative enterprises.
These fraudsters prey on regular investors by fabricating websites that entice victims into believing their investments are profitable.
According to the Justice Department, the alleged companies and cryptocurrency exchanges were, in fact, non-existent trading platforms.
After tracing those victim deposits, U.S. Secret Service (USSS) agents and analysts noticed that the money was swiftly laundered through dozens of cryptocurrency addresses and exchanged for multiple different cryptocurrencies—a process known as “chain hopping.”
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To hide the nature, source, ownership, and management of illicit gains, these strategies are utilized to “layer” them into brand-new cryptocurrency ecosystems.
The seized funds were connected to many victim reports filed through the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The proceeds were returned in the US dollar-linked stablecoin Tether.
“Silicon Valley remains one of the world’s preeminent locations for cryptocurrency firms. As such, we remain dedicated to using all tools at our disposal to bring justice to the victims of frauds and scams”, said U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California.
“Even when money and criminals are abroad, we will work with our partners to seize cyber criminals’ illegal proceeds.”
Seizure of $9M in Crypto Disrupted
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division stated this seizure should also serve as a warning to cybercriminals that, despite the cryptocurrency ecosystem’s current state appearing to be a perfect place to launder illicit gains, law enforcement will continue to build the skills necessary to track down and recover money for victims.
The department is also hopeful that the over 70 victims of this fraud series would feel some closure and justice as a result of the assets being recovered.
The goal of the Secret Service is to safeguard the US financial system, and this seizure is a prime example of that effort.
“We remain determined and vigilant to combat cyber-enabled financial fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Shawn Bradstreet of the USSS San Francisco Field Office.
The case is still being handled by the Department of Justice’s computer crime division, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, and assistant US attorneys Chris Kaltsas and Galen Phillips for the Northern District of California.
The Department of Justice did not mention any arrests or the cybercriminals’ identities within the organization.
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