US Federal authorities have arrested and charged two 21-year-old men in Virginia with planning a violent robbery of bitcoins worth millions of dollars. The duo had plotted to break into a family’s home in Westchester County, NYC, and force its residents to reveal the code to the private key of the wallet which they thought contained the BTC.
Planning BTC Robbery
According to a release by the US Department of Justice, South District New York (SDNY), Dominic Pineda and Shon Morgan were charged with conspiring to commit Hobbs Act robbery in the middle of the night in an Irvington home in New York.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants participated in a violent plan to break into a family’s home in the middle of the night and force its residents to provide the code to what the defendants believed was tens of millions of dollars in Bitcoin currency. Thanks to the work of the FBI, the defendants will now be held responsible for the alleged acts,” US Attorney Damian Williams said.
The arrests were made on June 23 and the indictment was unsealed the next day in White Plains federal court, SDNY. As per the indictment, Pindea and Morgan engaged in illicit planning between May 18 and May 24, 2020.
“PINEDA, 21, of Manassas, Virginia, and MORGAN, 21, of Centreville, Virginia, are each charged with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison,” it said.
Defendants Deemed Innocent
However, the sentencing and quantum of punishment will be determined by the judge. Technically, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty as the charges in the indictment are merely accusations.
The two-year-long investigation was conducted by FBI Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force that comprised investigators from several agencies, including New York State Police, US Probation, Irvington Police Department, and the Greenburgh Drug and Alcohol Task Force.
BTC Thefts and Scams
In February 2022, a young married couple — Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan – was arrested and later tried in the court in Manhattan, the United States, for laundering large swaths of BTC stolen in a hack. The couple was charged with laundering 119,754 bitcoins from the Bitfinex exchange in August 2016. The value of the coins increased from $71 million at the time of the theft to over $5 billion at the time of their arrest.
A multilevel marketing scam registered in 2018 in India is believed to involve up to 600,000 BTC, which, even at the rate of $20k, is worth $12 billion. Interestingly, two crypto experts hired to assist the police were found to have stolen over 1,100 BTC in the course of the investigation.
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