News Business Crime & Financial Services 8th May 2024

Julia Faure Walker and Will Martin appear in highly complex, high-value, cryptocurrency fraud

On 3 May 2024, defendants were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court, having earlier pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to defraud. The first defendant was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment; the second defendant 15 months. A co-conspirator faces proceedings in The Netherlands.

Operation Jigsaw investigated a fraud perpetrated on thousands of cryptocurrency wallets held at More than £5m is known to have been lost by victims.

The victims would land on spoofed websites, then enter their user and password details. The information would simultaneously be inputted into the genuine website, from which, as victims would later discover, wallet balances were depleted. Extended private and public keys of the wallets, as well as recovery seeds, would be harvested at the same time.

Methods were deployed to monitor compromised wallets so that, should victims replenish their wallets, fraudsters would be alerted, and wallets would be depleted again using the harvested keys.

To increase the chances of victims using the spoofed websites, fraudsters used sophisticated methods to promote their websites above other internet search results. The first defendant obtained access to compromised Google AdWord accounts via the dark web to facilitate this.

An international investigation found that over 17,000 cryptocurrency wallets were compromised, with victims defrauded from at least 26 countries. Fraudulent transactions were identified from input (or sending) address cluster analysis, and by linking destination addresses to defendants. The investigation, which was unusually complex, lasted several years.

Julia Faure Walker, instructed by CPS Serious Economic Organised Crime and International Directorate (SEOCID), appeared as sole prosecution junior. Will Martin, instructed by Mark Bowen of Shearman Bowen & Co, represented the first defendant as sole junior.

Media links: BBC News | Daily Mail

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