Business

Steve Kaaru

Third defendant pleads guilty in the $4.7 million BTC fake ID ring

A third defendant has pleaded guilty to charges of operating a fake ID ring, reportedly conducting transactions using SegWitCoin (BTC). The defendant, 35-year-old Sarah Alberts from Perrysburg, Ohio, and took the guilty plea on July 2. She is scheduled to be sentenced on October 8.

According to a report by the Toledo Blade, she admitted to charges of money laundering and possessing at least five identification documents with intent to use unlawfully.

Alberts was part of a crime ring that conducted its operations in Toledo. She was one of the four members of the ring, with the other two having been arraigned in U.S. courts in June. Her partners, Mark Alex Simon and Aaron Kuns, entered guilty pleas as well. Simon admitted to money laundering and knowingly transferring false identification documents. Kuns admitted to the production of false identification documents and money laundering.

The Toledo-based crime ring operated mainly through popular social media platform, Reddit. Having secured clients from Reddit, they would require them to pay in BTC to avoid detection. Police arrested the four members last year. According to court documents, the group created and transferred fake driving licenses and personal ID cards between June 2013 and February 2018 when the authorities caught up with them.

Simon was in charge of collecting photos and personal information from clients while Kuns would process it and manufacture the fake IDs. Alberts would then pick up the fake IDs and mail them to their owners.

The presiding judge, Judge Jeffrey Helmick will sentence Simon and Kuns on September 18. They each face a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison with up to three years of supervised release.

Court documents further revealed that the ring made $4.7 million in BTC over the five years. Additionally, the police seized $7,000 in cash and gold and silver bars and coins. Simon will be required to forfeit $2.8 million in BTC while Kuns will be expected to forfeit $10,000 in BTC as well.

The fourth member of the ring, Benjamin Stalets is yet to appear in court.

The use of cryptocurrencies in crime, especially BTC, is nothing new. According to a report by crypto analytics firm CipherTrace, the true cost of crypto crimes hit $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019. A lion’s share of this sum was attributed to QuadrigaCX and Bitfinex, with the report stating that the two companies were closely linked.

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