A UK court has sentenced four people to 15 years in prison for illegally obtaining digital assets worth £21 million ($25 million) through an Australian cryptocurrency exchange.
Stephen William Boys, 58, Kelly Catton, 44, Jordan Kane Robinson, 23, and James Austin-Beddos, 27, were sentenced at Preston Crown Court in Lancashire, England.
Jurors found him guilty of receiving millions of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies from Australia-based cryptocurrency exchange CoinSpot. He was also found guilty of plundering property once he had obtained it illegally.
The four were brought together by James Parker, the alleged mastermind of the plot, who died in January 2021.
Exchange defrauded of $18 million
From his home in Blackpool, Parker exploited a loophole in the exchange’s infrastructure, allowing him to collect millions of pounds in crypto. Between October 2017 and January 2018, Parker withdrew £15 million ($18 million) worth of crypto assets. Catton and Robinson, allies favored with knowledge of the exploit, withdrew £2.7 million and £1.7 million respectively.
After receiving the cryptocurrency, Parker then sought out Boyes, his financial advisor, to help him convert it into cash. Working with Kambi, a UK national living in Dubai, Boyes laundered the money through various foreign accounts.
Investigators worked with Australian and Finnish counterparts
Due to the technical expertise required for the investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service cooperated extensively. For example, its Civil Recovery Unit worked with specialist officers from the North West Regional Organized Crime Unit. Together, they located and identified the stolen property and obtained a civil recovery order in the High Court for an estimated value of around £1 million.
According to a CPS official, the partnerships expanded internationally as well. He described working with Australian and Finnish authorities to analyze significant amounts of digital material. The authorities are still recovering the assets, but have already returned a significant portion to the exchange. Although Parker died before he could be prosecuted, investigators obtained a £1 million civil recovery order against his estate.
UK crypto crime on the rise
The UK National Crime Agency found money laundering to be one of the primary reasons criminals are turning to cryptocurrencies. As per the report, the agency seized crypto worth £26.89 million (about $32.4 million) between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. During 2022, the crypto industry experienced hacks worth over $3 billion.
To counter the rise in crypto-related crime, the agency launched a special unit, the “NCCU Crypto Cell”. As of the beginning of the month, the agency is looking for experts with “expert cryptocurrency experience.” According to the job listing, the agency is offering a salary of between £40,209 and £43,705.
BeInCrypto has reached out to the company or the person involved in the story for an official statement regarding the recent development, but has yet to hear back.