Australian law enforcement authorities have apprehended a sixth Chinese national concerning a crypto scam that defrauded American victims of over $100 million. The scheme exploited crypto and forex exchanges, and the arrested individual, a 34-year-old residing in Sydney, is accused of employing bank and cryptocurrency accounts to facilitate money laundering efforts tied to the fraudulent operation.
The breakthrough in the investigation came after a tip-off from the US Secret Service to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in August 2022. Subsequent inquiries by Australia’s cybercrime department unveiled a criminal network that heavily relied on Chinese students living in Australia to sustain the deception.
The scam operated through a sophisticated blend of dating and employment platforms and messaging channels. Victims were lured into investing in fake and genuine crypto and forex trading sites, showcasing fabricated investment returns that fostered a misleading sense of success. This tactic coerced victims into funnelling more funds into the scam.
The AFP has arrested and charged a sixth Chinese national living in Sydney as part of an investigation into an organised criminal syndicate involved in a cyber-enabled investment scam that has resulted in more than US$100 million in losses worldwide. https://t.co/15qKAUffkT
— AFP (@AusFedPolice) August 17, 2023
The newly arrested suspect allegedly used the identities of Samoan nationals on temporary work visas to set up bank accounts for offshore money laundering purposes. He purportedly paid these workers a nominal sum to use these accounts, all while the victims remained unaware of the illicit activities in progress.
The arrest materialised when security cameras captured the suspect depositing cash into the compromised accounts and retrieving funds. A search of his residence yielded electronic devices and a substantial quantity of tobacco products, suggesting potential connections to other illicit activities.
The Chinese national faces multiple charges, including dealing with criminal proceeds exceeding $100,000, employing false identities for unlawful services, and evading excise duties for tobacco products.
Detective Superintendent Tim Stainton commented on the alarming rise in cyber-enabled scams, urging the public to exercise prudence when dealing with unknown entities online, especially about investment opportunities that appear too good to be true.
The arrested 34-year-old is scheduled to appear in court on September 7 to face these charges. The case underscores the ongoing challenges of increasingly sophisticated cybercrime networks and the need for continued vigilance in the digital landscape.