Bitcoin, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies among British citizens, has once again fallen victim to fraud. Four individuals based in the English county of Lancashire were sentenced on Friday for conducting a scheme worth over $24 million involving a glitch in an unnamed Australian crypto exchange.
The group reportedly stole over $24 million over a three-month period in 2017, based on the price of 445 Bitcoin at the time they were seized by authorities. The group reportedly made so much money from the fraud that the ringleader allegedly bought cars for people he met in the pub with the illicit funds. The Lancashire Police force responsible for the prosecution said they “worked closely” with international law enforcement in regions such as Australia and Finland on the case, along with the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service.
The group was convicted last year and sentenced last Friday for a variety of offenses including converting criminal property and conspiracy to commit fraud. James Parker, the group’s alleged leader, died in 2021 and therefore did not live to be sentenced.
Detective Sergent David Wainwright, of Lancashire Police’s Fraud Unit, said that “the scale of the fraud, in this case, is absolutely staggering and led to the suspects literally having more money than they could spend.”
One of the sentenced, Stephen Boys, told the court he used £1 million ($1.23 million) cash stored in a suitcase “to buy a villa from Russians he met in the back office of an estate agent” and that he paid £60,000 ($74,000) to help launder the stolen funds by making payments to officials in an unnamed country.
In addition, the police department responsible claimed to have seized “luxury watches, houses, cars and designer goods, including a £600 ($740) wine cooler” from the gang and also handed out £5000 ($6,171) gift cards.
The scale of this particular fraud seems eye-popping, but these Lancashire criminals aren’t the only Britons raking it in from crypto fraud. As per its most recent annual report, the UK’s National Crime Agency seized almost £27 million ($33 million) worth of cryptocurrencies in the 2021-22 financial year. This number is significant, considering the year before this, they had seized zero.
UK authorities are, however, hot on the chase. The NCA announced the launch of a new team with a remit to proactively investigate cryptocurrency crime, dubbed the National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) Crypto Cell. It is currently recruiting experienced team members. The formation of this new team is a testament to the growing concern of crypto-related crimes in the UK and the need for specialized teams to combat them.
The crypto market is known to be highly volatile and susceptible to frauds and scams. It is essential for individuals to exercise caution while investing in cryptocurrencies and to be aware of the potential risks involved. It is also crucial for authorities to take a proactive approach in investigating and prosecuting such crimes to deter potential offenders and to protect innocent individuals from falling victim to such schemes.
In conclusion, the recent case of the group from Lancashire serves as a reminder of the need for caution and vigilance when it comes to investing in cryptocurrencies. It also highlights the importance of specialized teams to investigate and prosecute such crimes and the need for international cooperation to combat the growing threat of crypto-related frauds.