Manhattan DA freezes $1.3 million in stolen cryptocurrency

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The Manhattan district attorney’s office has frozen more than $1.3 million in stolen cryptocurrency this year as part of its efforts to crack down on “cyberthieves,” it said Thursday.

Cryptocurrency scammers who targeted three Manhattan residents between November of last year and April of this year conned them out of more than $1.7 million, the DA’s office said in a news release.

A team from the DA’s office traced and froze a portion of the stolen funds, the announcement states.

“Using our blockchain analytics expertise, our investigators, prosecutors and specialized cryptocurrency analysts were able to locate and freeze more than $1.3 million in stolen cryptocurrency over the past 10 months alone,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a declaration.

The DA’s office said it seized $200,000 of the frozen cryptocurrency and is now keeping it in its accounts.

“While many of these cyberthieves are overseas and currently beyond our reach, the cryptocurrency they stole is not,” Bragg said. “We are returning this money to the victims of these schemes – while raising awareness to prevent future fraud.”

One of the victims was scammed last November and lost more than $300,000 on a fake website that was made to look like a real cryptocurrency trading platform, the DA’s office said.

The money went to fraudsters in Turkey, but the DA’s office was able to freeze about $200,000 of it, the release said.

In the same month, a Manhattan-based business owner lost more than $700,000 in cryptocurrency to a bogus investment scheme based in Nigeria, according to the DA’s office.

The DA’s office recovered more than $200,000 of that money, it said.

The final scheme revealed by Bragg’s office occurred last April when someone claiming to be an Amazon representative called a Manhattan resident and said they were investigating a fraudulent purchase, it said in the publication.

The victim said she was transferred to a person posing as a Federal Trade Commission investigator who tricked her into “depositing more than $700,000 in cash into Bitcoin ATMs,” according to the release.

This resident was not the only person who fell victim to the scam, the DA’s office noted.

“Other victims of this scam were also asked to download and install remote computer access software that gave the fraudsters access to their online bank accounts,” the release said.

The DA’s office was able to freeze more than $900,000 in stolen cryptocurrency and cash as part of its investigation into this scam, the release said, adding that the scammers “are believed to be operating outside of India.”

“I encourage everyone to share these common scams with loved ones, especially the elderly people in their lives, and report such scams to our Cybercrime and Identity Theft Hotline at 212-335-9600,” Bragg said in his statement.

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