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Four people linked to the multi-million pound Bitcoin crypto fraud have been jailed, with reports saying they were involved in a scheme to dishonestly acquire currency worth £21 million between October 2017 and January 2018, according to a report on BBC.

Citing Prosecutor Jonathan Kelleher:

hese offenders used the internet from the comfort of their homes to obtain tens of millions of pounds worth of Bitcoin, which did not belong to them.

From the report, the Preston Crown Court found the four, comprising three men and one woman, all within the 24 to 54 age bracket, guilty, and sentenced them to a total of 15 years imprisonment on charges of fraud and transferring criminal property.

It follows that the fraudulent quad worked with their ringleader James Parker, who passed on in 2021 before he could be prosecuted for being the mastermind behind the conspiracy, whose headquarters was at his home in Blackpool. 

Exchange Defrauded Of $18 million

Based on reports submitted to the court, the boss James Parker (now deceased), took advantage of a vulnerability to withdraw dishonestly acquired crypto assets worth millions of pounds in crypto from his own trading account on a crypto exchange based in Australia. According to the court filing, between October 2017 and January 2018, Parker withdrew crypto assets worth £15 million (approximately $18 million).

The Preston Crown Court also established that Parker’s accomplices, Kelly Caton and Jordan Robinson, deceitfully withdrew £2.7 million and £1.7 million, respectively, from their individual accounts. The court described them as “associates favored with knowledge of the exploit.”

Notably, Parker’s financial adviser, Stephen Boys, collaborated with a U.K. national called Kambi, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to convert the crypto into cash. After that, the money was laundered using several foreign-based online accounts.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Preston Crown Prosecution team said:

A very significant amount of the laundered assets have been returned or are in the process of being recovered on behalf of the Australian cryptocurrency exchange.

Investigators Collaborated With Australian and Finnish Counterparts

To get to the ruling, the court commissioned investigators that worked with teams from Australia and Finland. The collaboration came as a lot of technical expertise was necessary to facilitate the investigation. In particular, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) employed its Civil Recovery Unit, liaising with specialist officers from the North West Regional Organized Crime Unit.

By coordinating and synchronizing their efforts, the joint task force located and identified the stolen assets and obtained a Civil Recovery Order in the High Court. Reportedly, the estimated value was approximately £1 million.

The collaboration also went beyond the U.K. borders, with one CPS official describing working with Australian and Finnish authorities to analyze a notable amount of digital material. As per his description, asset recovery is still ongoing, although a significant portion has been returned to the exchange.

Notably, despite Parker’s 2021 demise and therefore escape from prosecution, investigators have been able to secure a £1 million civil recovery order against the deceased’s estate.

The Preston Crown Court Issues Four Different Sentences

Consequently, Stephen Boys (Parker’s financial adviser), a 59-year-old male from Accrington, has now relinquished his reputation as a professional financial adviser and is now facing six years in jail after the court found him guilty of “converting and transferring criminal property.”

The first accomplice, Kelly Caton, who withdrew £2.7 million, is a 45-year-old female from Blackpool. Caton is facing four and half years in jail after he was found guilty of fraud, converting, and acquiring criminal property.

The second accomplice, Jordan Robinson, who withdrew £1.7 million, is a 24-year-old male from Fleetwood. Like Caton, Robinson is facing four and a half years on the exact charges of fraud, converting, and acquiring criminal property.

The fourth convict is James Austin-Beddoes, aged 28 and tracing his descent back to St Anne’s. He was found guilty of fraud and acquiring criminal property after he pleaded guilty to converting criminal property. Austin-Beddoes is facing a jail term of up to 18 months (1.5 years) and a year-long suspension.

Crypto Fraud On The Rise in The U.K.

Based on reports by the U.K. National Crime Agency, money laundering has become one of the main reasons criminals resolve to crypto. Reportedly, just between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, the U.K. agency confiscated crypto worth £26.89 million. This is approximately $32.4 million at current rates.

In the same way, just within 2022, the crypto industry witnessed hacks worth more than $3 billion.

The U.K. agency commissioned a specialized unit christened “NCCU Crypto Cell to fight crypto-related crime.” As of early January, the agency was already advertising open slots for experts with a “specialist cryptocurrency experience,” with the job listings noting that accepted recruits would receive salaries between £40,209 and £43,705.

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