The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has arrested three Miami men who were allegedly involved in a scheme to steal over $4 million in digital assets from an undisclosed exchange and banks in America.
The trio, identified as Esteban Cabrera Da Corte, 34, Luis Hernandez Gonzalez, 23, and Asdrubal Ramirez Meza, 34, are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, committing wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, according to a DOJ press release.
Explaining how the group carried out their scheme, the DOJ noted in the indictment that the defendants purchased digital assets with exchange accounts created using stolen U.S. passports and driver’s licenses as Know Your Customer documents but funded with their legitimate bank account details.
After completing each transaction and transferring the assets to external wallets, they called their banks to state that the transactions were unauthorized, naming themselves the victims of identity theft. The complaints forced the bank to reverse the transaction while they repeated the scheme.
This resulted in the U.S. banks processing more than $4 million in fraudulent reversals and the unnamed exchange losing more than $3.5 million worth of digital assets for several months during 2020.
The Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) El Dorado Task Force busted the scheme with Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Ricky J. Patel, who commented that the arrest demonstrates the HSI’s commitment to investigate illicit digital asset transactions.
“Today’s arrests demonstrate how HSI, along with the U.S. Secret Service and our partners at the Southern District of New York, will continue to work together to leverage the transparency of cryptocurrency transactions to follow the trail of illicit funds and pierce the veil of anonymity,” he said.
The trio will face trial before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. They could face between two to 30 years of imprisonment if found guilty of the charges.
The DOJ records success in bringing digital assets criminals to justice
The arrest is only the latest success the DOJ has recorded in clamping down on digital assets criminals. This year, the department has netted big and small digital asset recoveries.
The DOJ has also had success in its collaborations with other countries. It recently secured two extraditions of defendants indicted in digital asset cases, including Alexander Vinnik, the founder of BTC-e exchange that allegedly facilitated money laundering for ransomware gangs, drug dealers, and identity thieves.
However, the agency is not resting on its laurels. Bloomberg reported that the DOJ has doubled down on its commitment to combat fraudsters by cooperating with more international partners.
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