According to an official notification published April 24, 2019, by the U.S. Department of Justice for Oregon, two Nigerian nationals have been charged in a 13-count indictment with regard to their alleged involvement in an online bitcoin fraud scheme.
Criminals Continue to Use Digital Currencies
The rising popularity of cryptocurrencies has made it a favorite among conmen. This is because committing fraud through digital currencies is slightly easier due to the lack of general awareness and know-how among the common populace.
This fact was refreshed when the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Oregon indicted two Nigerian nationals – Kelvin Usifoh and Onwuemerie Ogor Gift – for orchestrating a bitcoin scam that duped investors of more than $270,000. The two individuals, who are yet to be located, face multiple charges including conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud.
Per the notification by the Justice Department, the accused began their misdeeds in December 2017 by purchasing the URL www.wealthcurrency.com and promising investors exorbitant returns ranging from 20 to 50 percent on bitcoin investments with zero transaction fee and instant withdrawals. They purchased a few more URLs to give a sense of legitimacy to their victims. The conmen also promised to invest the customers’ bitcoin through “unique trading methods” to guarantee healthy returns.
Once they received bitcoin investments from their victims, Gift and Usifoh would transfer the cryptocurrency to other accounts and later exchange it on forex markets for Nigerian Naira.
Per the indictment, the accused stole around 10.88 bitcoin worth approximately $59,000 from three victims in just over six months. The government believes that the two individuals stole more than 50 bitcoin during their time of committing fraud.
Notably, the case has already been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and is currently being prosecuted by Quinn P. Harington, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
It’s also worth highlighting that on the same day, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an investor alert to warn people about frauds and dishonest schemes of a similar kind related to digital assets.
Bitcoin and Crimes
As mentioned earlier, the relative novelty of cryptocurrencies as an asset class makes them an attractive tool for criminals to trick innocent investors.
BTCManager reported on April 23, 2019, how Joel Ortiz, the prime suspect in $7.5 million bitcoin theft case landed a ten-year jail term from the office of the District Attorney of Santa Clara County.
Similarly, on April 9, 2019, reports emerged stating how a Danish man netted more than four years in prison for laundering $500,000 dirty money through bitcoin.