Leader of an Identity Theft Crypto Scam That Stole $4M Pleads Guilty
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Leader of an Identity Theft Crypto Scam That Stole $4M Pleads Guilty

The leader of a Miami trio that stole $4 million from several banks and damaged a “leading cryptocurrency exchange” for $3.5 million recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud.
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According to a Justice Department press release published on Wednesday, April 26th, Esteban Cabrera Da Corte, the leader of a criminal trio from Miami, pleaded guilty today. Da Corte’s group operated a  scheme that used stolen personal information in order to defraud banks out of approximately $4 million.

Leader of a Miami Trio Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Banks of $4 Million

This Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that Esteban Cabrera Da Corte, the leader of a trio from Miami that operated a major cryptocurrency fraud, has pleaded guilty. The operation entailed the use of stolen personal identification documents, and other personal information to defraud banks out of $4 million through false reimbursement requests.

Da Corte is facing up to 20 years in prison due to pleading guilty to wire fraud and has agreed to pay restitution of more than $3.5 million and forfeiture of $1.2 million. Commenting on the matter U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated that his office will continue cracking down on individuals seeking to benefit from theft and fraud even if they attempt to use the anonymity offered by digital assets as protection.

Esteban Cabrera Da Corte orchestrated a scheme to steal millions of dollars by buying cryptocurrency using false and stolen identities and then deceiving U.S. banks regarding those transactions.  As a result of his guilty plea, Cabrera Da Corte is now being held to account.  Our Office will continue to work vigorously with our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of U.S. banks and financial markets to the full extent of the law from those who seek to enrich themselves through fraud and deceit, including those who attempt to shroud themselves in the anonymity of digital transactions.

The DoJ initially pressed charges against Da Corte and his accomplices—Luis Hernandez Gonzalez and Asdrubal Ramirez Meza—in late August 2022. At the time, the trio was accused of committing wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud since at least 2020.

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How Did Da Corte’s Operation Defraud Banks?

While various kinds of fraud are still relatively prevalent in the world of cryptocurrencies due to their relative youth, banks are relatively rarely the target. Under most circumstances, would-be fraudsters attempt to scam individual investors mostly through pyramid, Ponzi, pump-and-dump, and other schemes. For example, only a month after De Corte and his crew were charged, the SEC sued Arbitrade for issuing digital tokens that it falsely claimed were backed by gold.

Da Corte and his team used a different approach and instead targeted multiple banks and a major cryptocurrency exchange. The trio used photographs of US identification documents and other stolen personal information to open multiple accounts with what was described in the original indictment as “a leading cryptocurrency exchange platform.”

They then linked these new accounts to the targeted banks, used currency to buy digital assets, and quickly moved said assets out of the aforementioned exchange. They would then call the banks claiming that cryptocurrency transactions were unauthorized forcing the banks to process more than $4 million to reverse them, and costing the cryptocurrency exchange a $3.5 million loss in digital assets.

Editorial note (April 27th, 2023, 05:50 PM EST): The excerpt was corrected to say $3.5 million instead of $3.5.

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Do you think there will be less cryptocurrency-related fraud in 2023 than in 2022? Let us know in the comments below.