June 16, 2024

The Justice Department said on Friday that it arrested two alleged scammers for laundering “at least” $73 million through shell companies connected to “pig butchering” cryptocurrency investment schemes.

In a pig butchering scam, scammers contact victims online and gain their trust before manipulating them into investing in a fake cryptocurrency.

Daren Li, a 41-year-old dual citizen of China and St. Kitts and Nevis — and resides in China, Cambodia, and the United Arab Emirates, was arrested on April 12 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. According to a Justice Department statement, he was subsequently transported to the Central District of California. Yicheng Zhang, 38, a Chinese national and resident of Temple City, California, was arrested on Thursday in Los Angeles, California, the statement said.

The DOJ accused the individuals of having lured victims into depositing money into U.S. accounts. From there, the two allegedly utilized co-conspirators to launder the money through U.S. financial institutions to Bahamas bank accounts, before converting the funds into the stablecoin Tether, also known as USDT.

“Cryptocurrency investment scams exploit the borderless nature of virtual currency and online communications to defraud victims,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “While fraud in the crypto markets takes on many forms and hides in many far-off places, its perpetrators aren’t beyond the law’s reach,” the

Li and Zhang face charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and six counts of international money laundering. According to the Justice Department, if found guilty, they could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count.

Two days before announcing the arrests, the Justice Department said it arrested two brothers for allegedly stealing roughly “$25 million worth of cryptocurrency within approximately 12 seconds.” And earlier this month, the department charged ‘Bitcoin Jesus’, a.k.a. Roger Ver, with evading nearly $50 million in taxes.

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