ARIZONA NEWS

Justice Department seizes over $112 million in fraudulent crypto scheme

Apr 4, 2023, 4:05 AM

In this photo illustration, the Bitcoin logo is seen displayed on a mobile phone screen. (Photo Ill...

In this photo illustration, the Bitcoin logo is seen displayed on a mobile phone screen. (Photo Illustration by Idrees Abbas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Photo Illustration by Idrees Abbas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Department of Justice announced Monday that it seized over $112 million linked to cryptocurrency investment scams in Arizona, California and Idaho.

In the scams, the suspects made long-term relationships with the victims online and enticed them to invest in fraudulent trading platforms.

Instead, the money was sent to the scammers’ crypto addresses and accounts.

“Transnational criminal organizations are combining confidence scams with technological savvy to swindle Americans out of their hard-earned funds,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. said in the press release.

“These particularly vicious frauds – where scammers carefully cultivate relationships with their victims over time – have devastated families and cost individuals their life savings. Now that we have seized this virtual currency, we will seek to swiftly return it to victims.”

The FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center reported $3.31 billion in investment fraud losses, an increase of 183% from 2021 ($2.57 billion).

The highest number of reported scams are between the ages of 30 and 49. In a term commonly referred to as “pig butchering,” scammers attempt to reach people through social networking, online communications platforms, dating websites and phone calls and text messages that are meant to appear to have been misdialed.

Some scams can occur over months, according to the Justice Department.

“Financial fraud schemes like these demonstrate the great lengths criminals will take to swindle innocent victims out of their money,” Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division Luis Quesada said in the release.

“We continue to see these schemes evolve and provide new avenues for criminals to exploit. Today’s announcement should serve as reminder of the FBI’s unwavering commitment, alongside our federal and international law enforcement partners, to investigating and pursuing criminal actors who seek to defraud the American public. There is no place beyond the reach of the FBI.”

If you or someone you know is a victim, visit the FBI website, contact your local FBI field office or call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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Justice Department seizes over $112 million in fraudulent crypto scheme