Dena J. King, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the civil forfeiture and restitution of cryptocurrencies worth hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from an elderly victim of a government impostor hoax.
According to the legal complaint, scammers presumably acting from overseas contacted the victim, an elderly Asheville resident, by phone in August 2021, pretending to be with the “Office of the Inspector General.”
The victim was duped into believing that his personal information had been used to aid a drug trafficking and money laundering scam and that all of his assets would be frozen as a result.
One of the imposters, Agent James Hoffman, informed the victim that he needed to transfer money into a safe government account until the government could verify that he wasn’t involved in any criminal activity.
The imposters also wanted all of the victim’s personally identifiable information (PII) as well as bank account information.
The imposters instructed the victim to utilize hundreds of thousands of dollars of his retirement money to acquire Bitcoin through Coinbase Global, Inc., according to the lawsuit (Coinbase).
12.164699 Bitcoin, worth roughly $500,483, was moved from the victim’s Coinbase account to the imposters’ account on August 31, 2021. The move was eventually discovered by Coinbase and the FBI as suspected elder financial fraud.
The confiscated cryptocurrency was forfeited to the US and will be restored to the victim after an investigation and successful civil forfeiture procedures.
Justice served to the victim
United States Attorney King praised the FBI’s work in this investigation and thanked cryptocurrency exchanges, businesses, and financial institutions in the Western District of North Carolina for their cooperation and continued efforts to detect and report financial crime in a statement released today.
The civil forfeiture proceedings were handled by Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Bain-Creed. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, and Trial Attorney Jane Lee of the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section aided with remitting the assets to the victim.
The United States Attorney’s Office continues to fight financial fraud against older Americans through its Elder Justice Initiative.
It includes expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors, educating older adults on how to spot scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud, and promoting greater collaboration with law enforcement partners.