Two Arrested and Jailed in £5.7m Crypto Scam Targeting Blockchain.com Users

Two Arrested and Jailed in £5.7m Crypto Scam Targeting Blockchain.com Users

Authorities in the UK have apprehended and incarcerated two individuals for orchestrating a sophisticated cryptocurrency scam, resulting in the theft of £5.7 million (approximately $7.125 million) worth of digital assets from victims worldwide.

James Heppel, 42, hailing from Staverton in Wiltshire, and Jake Lee, 38, residing in Charlcombe, Bath, stand accused of three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with the scam.

The duo allegedly defrauded cryptocurrency investors by operating a counterfeit version of the popular crypto exchange, Blockchain.com. Through this fake website, unsuspecting users were tricked into divulging their login credentials, enabling the scammers to pilfer their cryptocurrency holdings.

Their nefarious scheme ensnared 55 victims across 26 countries, including 11 individuals in the UK, as revealed by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU).

The investigation commenced when Lee was apprehended by the Avon and Somerset Police on suspicion of money laundering. Subsequently, three Bitcoin wallet recovery seeds, three digital devices, and £24,000 in cash were seized from Lee during the arrest.

Concurrently, SWROCU had initiated a probe into a separate crypto scam that had defrauded a Wiltshire resident of £11,000 worth of Bitcoin from their crypto wallet.

Detective Superintendent Matt Brain disclosed that electronic devices recovered from Lee were pivotal in linking him and Heppel to the scam. However, specific details regarding these devices have not been disclosed.

Both Lee and Heppel have pleaded guilty to the charges. Lee faces a 4-year prison sentence, while Heppel has been sentenced to 15 months. Additionally, a confiscation order of £1 million has been issued against Lee.

Pamela Jain, a prosecutor with the Serious Economic Organised Crime International Directorate of the Crown Prosecution Service, described the prosecution as intricate and time-consuming, involving coordination with numerous victims and authorities worldwide.

Authorities have managed to recover £64,000 worth of cryptocurrency, £835,000 in cash, three vehicles, and a print of Banksy’s artwork titled ‘Bomb Love,’ valued at £60,000.

Cryptocurrency scams have witnessed a surge in the UK, with police warning against platforms like Coscoin, suspected of operating a Ponzi scheme. A report by TRM Labs in March revealed that UK residents lost an average of £15,000 to various crypto scams since October 2022, encompassing investment frauds, phishing schemes, and unconventional scams like pig butchering.

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