Criminals behind a UK-based bitcoin scam bribed authorities, bought luxury properties with suitcases full of cash, and handed out thousands of pounds to people in the street after making “more money than they could spend.”
As reported by the Manchester Evening News, the gang was jailed this week for between six years and 18 months after exploiting a loophole in an Australian crypto exchange to steal £22 million ($26.9 million) in bitcoin.
However, before they were arrested, they enjoyed extremely lavish lifestyles thanks to the ill-gotten crypto. Police reportedly recovered 445 bitcoin, luxury watches, cars, property, designer goods, and a £600 wine cooler.
The gang also held bank accounts containing more than £1 million ($1.2 million) and at one point were able to buy a luxury villa with £1 million in cash. The deal was carried out in the back office of an estate agent with the funds handed over in a suitcase. They also gave more than £60,000 ($73,000) to corrupt officials to ensure their scam could continue.
Indeed, it appears the gang was making more than they could spend themselves. According to police, the fraudsters handed out £5,000 ($6,000) gift cards to people in the street and even bought cars for “people they met in the pub.”
Authorities say the Blackpool-based gang worked with a UK national based in Dubai to convert their stolen crypto into cash. They then laundered it through a number of foreign online accounts.
“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 (via Manchester Evening News).
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says that a significant amount of the laundered assets have either been returned or are “in the process of being recovered” on the behalf of the exchange in question.