US man faces 40 years in jail over BTC romance and lottery scams

A U.S. man has pleaded guilty to being part of a crime ring targeting the elderly and vulnerable. The criminals operated romance and lottery scams, with the man facilitating transactions for them through BTC.

As per a Department of Justice press release, Austin Nedved admitted in a federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, that he ran a business in which he bought and sold BTC for cash. He advertised his services on LocalBitcoins.com and Paxful. The Northborough resident operated his business from 2017 to 2019, aiding romance and lottery scammers to defraud unsuspecting victims, authorities said.

Investigators said the scammers posed as romantic interests on online platforms to defraud their victims. In one particular case, an individual posing as ‘Jonathan G’ deceived a 78-year-old victim to believe that he was a Massachusetts businessman. He led the victim to believe that he would marry her. Months into their online romance, Jonathan G lied that his oil company had experienced an accident and he needed money to rebuild it.

The victim was led to Nedved who sold her BTC worth $100,000, which she later sent to the fraudster Jonathan G.

The DoJ stated, “When Nedved accepted $100,000 from the victim, Nedved knew or was willfully blind to the fact that the victim was a romance scam victim.”

In the lottery schemes, the scammers lured the victims with promises of lottery winnings or sizeable government grants, authorities said. To achieve them, the victims had to pay ‘administrative fees’ to the fraudsters.

“In total, Nedved and co-conspirators, in exchange for payment, converted to Bitcoin more than $630,000 in cash that they received from others, knowing that the cash constituted proceeds of romance and lottery scams and other unlawful activities.”

For aiding and abetting wire fraud, Nedved stands to face up to 20 years behind bars, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $500,000. The money laundering charge will land him in jail for 20 year as well, if convicted, and three years of supervised release.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—from BitMEX to BinanceBitcoin.comBlockstreamShapeShift and Ethereum—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.