Four individuals linked to the theft of £21m in Bitcoin from an Australian crypto exchange were handed down sentences by a UK court on Friday, Jan 13, bringing to closure a four-year-plus legal battle.
According to an announcement by The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the four, Stephen William Boys, 58, Kelly Caton, 44, Jordan Kane Robinson, 23, and James Austin-Beddoes, 27 had been charged with stealing and laundering Bitcoin and other crypto assets between 2017 and 2018 from an Australian-based crypto exchange Blackpool.
The four are said to have been part of a syndicate led by James Parker who masterminded the theft after discovering and exploiting some vulnerabilities in the crypto exchange.
“James Parker identified and then exploited a loophole on the cryptocurrency trading platform which allowed him and his associates to dishonestly obtain credits worth £21 million at that time,” read the announcement.
“Over three months, James Parker withdrew dishonestly obtained crypto assets worth £15 million from his trading account. His associates, Caton and Robinson, dishonestly withdrew £2.7 million and £ 1.7 million respectively, from their accounts,” it went on.
Following the heist, Parker went on to enlist the services of Boys who helped him launder the said assets through offshore crypto firms and friends. And although Parker died in January 2021, the Crown Prosecution Service Civil Recovery Unit managed to arrest his accomplices after casting a wide net. Police also recovered 445 Bitcoin, then worth £22m during investigations along with more than £1m in bank accounts, luxury watches, houses, cars and designer goods.
“The scale of the fraud, in this case, is absolutely staggering and led to the suspects literally having more money than they could spend,” said Det Sgt David Wainwright, of Lancashire Police’s Fraud Unit, describing the opulent lifestyle lived by Parker and his associates.
“I would like to pay tribute to all the agencies who worked closely together to bring these people to justice,” he added.
Parker’s accomplices were found guilty of fraud as well as converting and transferring criminal property being sentenced to a total of 15 years.
Welcoming the sentence, Jonathan Kelleher of the CPS noted that cyber-enabled crime ‘presents an increasing threat to international economic stability, as well as to honest individual investors in cryptocurrency’. He further stressed the importance of international collaboration between law enforcement agencies to take down crypto-related syndicates.
Last November, Financial Times reported that crypto fraud in the UK climbed past $270 in 2022, citing data from the country’s police unit, Action Fraud. As per the data, the number of reported losses grew 16% to 10.03K last year. Earlier in September, the UK unveiled a bill to “seize, freeze and recover” crypto assets that are obtained illegally.