Home Crime DOJ targets cryptocurrency scammers in $80 million ‘pig butchering’ scheme

DOJ targets cryptocurrency scammers in $80 million ‘pig butchering’ scheme

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment of four individuals implicated in a sophisticated operation to launder millions of dollars defrauded from victims through cryptocurrency investment scams, according to a Dec. 14 press release.

The defendants — Lu Zhang, Justin Walker, Joseph Wong, and Hailong Zhu — face multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit money laundering and international money laundering.

“Pig butchers”

Investigators allege that the group conspired to create shell companies and bank accounts for funneling proceeds from “pig butchering” scams. The term alludes to the practice of fattening hogs before slaughter.

The scheme involves building trust with victims met on social media or dating services, with the eventual goal of coaxing them into making cryptocurrency investments on sham platforms.

The indictment reports at least 284 transactions, resulting in over $80 million in losses, with more than $20 million directly linked to accounts tied to the accused.

Zhang and Walker were apprehended and appeared in federal court on Dec. 14. The two face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The DOJ has not yet released information regarding the arrest status of the remaining two defendants, Joseph Wong and Hailong Zhu.

NCET

The case reflects the DOJ’s growing focus on cryptocurrency-related crimes, spearheaded by the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section’s (CCIPS) National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET).

NCET’s role is increasingly vital in tracing and prosecuting digital asset crimes, working closely with other government and private sector entities.

The U.S. Secret Service’s Global Investigative Operations Center is leading the ongoing investigation, with the case being jointly prosecuted by the Central District of California’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and CCIPS/NCET.

As always, it is crucial to remember that an indictment is not a conviction under U.S. law and that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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