This week, investigators with the top Dutch anti-fraud watchdog, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD), arrested a man they argue defrauded investors out of millions of euros in what the suspect pitched as a bitcoin mining enterprise.
The 33-year-old man, Berry van Mourik, had reportedly set up two companies to receive payments for purchasing or renting bitcoin miners at his mining farm. However, the circumstances around his arrest now suggest that mine may never existed, or if it did, it wasn’t around for long.
In 2017, the alleged conman began soliciting investments by promising monthly returns of approximately 0.3 bitcoin. After raking in dozens of investors with that deal, most never saw any returns ever dispensed, and victims of the ploy then notified authorities.
FIOD estimates the man was able to accrue as much as €25 million in investments for the fraudulent scheme.
As such, Dutch law enforcement raided the man’s home in 2018 and found a variety of luxury goods, which the police have since asserted was where the majority of the illegally diverted funds went to. Investors are unlikely to be made whole from the episode accordingly.
Along with being hit by fraud charges, Mourik has also been accused of committing money laundering and forgery in the furtherance of his scheme.
Mining Fraud? Well There’s Illegal Mining, Too
Another story that’s made headlines in the cryptoverse this week comes from Australia, where a government worker is facing more than 10 years in prison for illegally using an undisclosed agency’s equipment to mine cryptocurrency.
The 33-year-old man, an IT contractor at the agency in question, reportedly mined more than $6,000 USD worth of cryptocurrency on the Australian Government gear. It’s unknown which asset or assets were mined, though either CPU or GPU mining was involved in the absence of ASIC rigs.
In announcing the man’s court appearance, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirmed it had raided his residence back in the springtime and had confiscated a “personal laptop, personal phone, employee ID cards and data files” in connection to the case.
Chris Goldsmid, a commander in the AFB’s cybercrimes unit, said the incident represented a transgression against the public’s trust the likes of which his team is actively looking to crack down on:
“Australian taxpayers put their trust in public officials to perform vital roles for our community with the utmost integrity. Any alleged criminal conduct which betrays this trust for personal gain will be investigated and prosecuted.”
In Other Crypto Crime News: America’s SEC Flexes on Ponzi Ploy
Speaking of policing, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on May 21st it had been awarded a restraining order and asset freeze against Argyle Coin, which the Commission said was engaging in an “ongoing $30 million Ponzi scheme targeting more than 300 investors in the U.S. and Canada.”
Per the SEC, the now under-fire project’s backers have falsely claimed their venture was “risk-free because it was backed by fancy colored diamonds … promising to use investor funds to develop [a] cryptocurrency business.”
Instead, the securities watchdog argues Argyle Coin’s leadership used millions of dollars worth of investments to pay off other project investors.
“The SEC’s diligent investigative work uncovered the Ponzi schemes and our goal is to bring justice to the harmed investors,” said the Commission’s Miami Office Director Eric Bustillo.
The cryptocurrency ecosystem may currently be a Wild West of sorts, then, but its clear that big national regulators like the SEC and FIOD aren’t going to let egregious cryptocurrency-centric violations fly under their watch.
Of course, there will always be those who think the risks of cons are worth the rewards. But for criminals in the cryptoeconomy, their toilings come as more authorities are eyeing the space than ever before.