Virtual currency and very real scams. Coordinated arrest and search operations in the Paris region, Megève and Cannes took place on 6 December, targeting organized gang fraud and money laundering. Following the police custody of two suspects, Frédérique Porterie, the prosecutor of Bordeaux, announced in a press release on Friday that they were charged on Thursday by an investigative judge of the Specialized Interregional Jurisdiction (JIRS) of Bordeaux and remanded in custody.
Victims robbed in exchange for counterfeit notes
They allegedly posed as wealthy investors, notably under the false identities of Philippe Pictet, Alexander Karlstein or Richard Von Stein, to hijack crypto-assets (bitcoins, ethereums, USDC). They persuaded their victims of all nationalities to meet them at a hotel outside their country of residence. “During the date, victims transferred crypto-assets in exchange for a suitcase of counterfeit notes or to digital wallets, whose fraudsters obtained the private key or recovery code by manipulating the victim’s phone, then disposed of the money as they wished,” the press release explains.
The first victims contacted in July 2019 lost the equivalent of more than a million euros in cypto assets in Milan, and new facts were committed in Paris and Milan during the year 2022 for damages equivalent to 500,000 euros.
58,000 euros in cash, Porsche, luxury watch…
After the divestiture at the end of 2021 of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bergerac, which was seized by a first complaint, the Bordeaux JIRS Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a European Investigation Order intended for Italy in order to launch the investigation. “The technical investigations of the Bordeaux research section and the monitoring of the blockchain (public registry of transactions with cryptoassets) also made it possible to identify persons responsible for laundering the funds thus diverted”, adds the prosecutor.
Searches of the suspects’ homes, carried out in coordination with JIRS Paris and the Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime, led to the seizure of 58,000 euros in cash, two Porsche vehicles, a Bentley car, a luxury estimated at 50,000 euros, what corresponding to 280,000 euros in crypto-assets (which were transferred to an account with the Agency for the Management and Recovery of Seized and Confiscated Assets) and false documents related to the nature of the charges.
The investigation continues to identify the accomplices and identify other victims of these acts.