Three individuals find themselves at the center of a complex crypto scam, accused of defrauding New York banks of more than $10 million.
In a statement released by US Attorney Damian Williams on Thursday, the trio – Zhong Shi Gao, Naifeng Xu, and Fei Jiang – is alleged to have exploited the financial system between 2018 and 2022, aiming to convert stolen funds into cryptocurrency and channel them through foreign crypto exchanges.
The intricacies of their operation involved recruiting accomplices, predominantly foreign nationals from China and Taiwan temporarily residing in the United States.
The scam targeted various bank branches in the New York City metropolitan area, where the accused established control over accounts and manipulated wire transfers.
Deceptive Banking Maneuvers
Upon gaining control of bank accounts, the perpetrators employed a cunning strategy. They orchestrated deposits and transfers of funds between accounts linked to their criminal network.
Following this, they submitted fraudulent reports to the banks, falsely claiming that the wire transfers were unauthorized.
This deceptive tactic led both the originating and receiving banks to temporarily credit the involved accounts with the transferred funds.
Despite the fraudulent nature of these reports, Gao, Xu, Jiang, and their associates swiftly capitalized on the scheme.
They withdrew the funds in cash or converted them into cryptocurrency before the banks could uncover the ruse.
The stolen money was then sent to crypto exchanges in other countries, making it even harder to find and get back the stolen money.
Crypto As A Veil
Legal repercussions are now looming large for the accused individuals. The Southern District of New York has filed charges, with potential sentences totaling up to 80 years for each offender.
Additionally, they face charges of aggravated identity theft, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.
Williams delivered a stern message to potential fraudsters, emphasizing that the use of cryptocurrency as a tool to conceal identities will not shield them from accountability.
FBI Assistant Director James Smith echoed this sentiment, highlighting the gravity of the offenses. He pointed out that schemes of this nature not only harm financial institutions but also pose challenges in reporting suspicious transactions.
Smith assured that the FBI remains committed to ensuring accountability within the criminal justice system, signaling a determined effort to tackle such intricate financial crimes.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s findings, a staggering number of more than 46,000 Americans fell victim to cryptocurrency scammers, collectively losing an alarming sum totaling $1 billion within the timeframe spanning from January 2021 to June 2022.
This disconcerting revelation underscores the pervasive and evolving nature of scams within the cryptocurrency space, highlighting the urgent need for increased awareness, education, and regulatory measures to safeguard individuals from falling prey to fraudulent activities.
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