Impostors of nabbed and jailed in £5m crypto scam

Authorities in the UK have arrested two men for stealing £5.7m (approximately $7.125 million) worth of cryptocurrencies from victims all across the globe.

According to a recent report, James Heppel, 42, from Staverton in Wiltshire, and Jake Lee, 38, from Charlcombe in Bath, have been charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud.

The accused defrauded cryptocurrency investors using a replica of the crypto exchange When users logged in to the bogus website, the scammers stole their crypto funds using their login details.

Using this deceptive tactic, the pair managed to get the best of 55 victims in 26 countries, including 11 from the UK, as identified by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU).

The investigation initially began when Lee was arrested by the Avon and Somerset Police on suspicion of money laundering. Three Bitcoin wallet recovery seeds, three digital devices, and £24,000 in cash were recovered from the culprit at the time of his arrest.

During the same time, the SWROCU had also started investing in a crypto scam that robbed a Wiltshire resident of £11,000 worth of Bitcoin stolen from his crypto wallet.

According to Det Supt Matt Brain, the scam was linked to Lee and his associate when the three electronic devices recovered from him were analyzed. What these devices were has not been revealed.

Both Lee and Heppel have pleaded guilty to the charges. Lee is currently facing 4 years in Jail, and Heppel has been sentenced to 15 months. A confiscation order for £ 1 million has also been issued against Lee.

“This was a complex and time-consuming prosecution which involved enquiries with numerous victims and prosecuting authorities all over the world,” said Pamela Jain, a prosecutor with the Serious Economic Organised Crime International Directorate of the Crown Prosecution Service.

So far, £64,000 worth of cryptocurrency, £835,000 in cash, three cars, and a print of the painting ‘Bomb Love’ by artist Banksy, valued at £60,000, have been recovered.

Cryptocurrency scams have seen a notable uptick in the UK. In January 2024, the UK police issued a warning against Coscoin, an AI-driven quantitative trading platform suspected of operating a Ponzi.

According to a March report from TRM Labs, UK residents lost £15,000 on average to crypto scams since October 2022. These included a variety of schemes such as Investment frauds, phishing scams, and pig butchering scams.

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