U.S. Gov Seeks Forfeiture of $196K in Cryptocurrency Seized From Alleged Fraud Scheme

News | June 20, 2024 By:

On Friday, June 7, 2024, the United States government filed a civil asset forfeiture complaint seeking to recover cryptocurrency funds totaling over $196,000 that were seized from Binance accounts.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the funds are believed to be connected to an international cryptocurrency investment fraud scheme known as “pig butchering.” Victims of this type of scheme are lured in with promises of romantic relationships and false promises of high investment returns. They are encouraged to make deposits into cryptocurrency wallets and investment platforms controlled by the criminals carrying out the scheme.

The complaint details how one American victim, referred to only as VICTIM, lost over $1 million to pig butchering scams between January 2021 and December 2022. VICTIM was defrauded by two different perpetrators, one going by the name “Eva Markus” and the other claiming to be “Lisa Warren.” Both criminally gained VICTIM’s trust before encouraging cryptocurrency investments and directing funds to wallet addresses they controlled.

Through blockchain analysis of the bitcoin and tether cryptocurrency transactions, investigators were able to trace some of VICTIM’s stolen funds. On November 24, 2023, over 5 bitcoin worth approximately $216,000 at the time were deposited into a Binance account registered to an Izuchukwu Henry Okolo. Shortly after, Okolo converted the bitcoin into 196,721 USDT, also known as tether, a stablecoin cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar. With the assistance of Binance, law enforcement was then able to freeze the funds in Okolo’s account.

The complaint seeks civil forfeiture of the $196,000 in seized tether under federal statutes allowing for the recovery of property involved in criminal offenses like wire fraud, money laundering, and transactions involving illegal proceeds. If forfeited, the funds could be used to compensate victims of the pig butchering scheme.

Please contact BlockTribune for access to a copy of this filing.