Most wanted crypto scammer arrested in Spain

By Raffaele Redi

The Guardia Civil’s Operation Bitdrop saw the seizure of €2.5m ($2.8m) in assets

One of the cars seized                                 
The man used his victims’ money to fund a lavish lifestyle – Photo: Spanish Civil Guard
                                

The Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol have arrested one of the most wanted crypto scammers in Europe, who is believed to be responsible for one of the largest cases of crypto fraud to date.

The 45-year-old scammer from Portugal was charged with seven crimes involving fraud and money laundering. He was found to have multiple bank accounts and own 13 luxury cars, while the Spanish authorities inspected seven more vehicles, all of them high-end models.

The Guardia Civil’s Operation Bitdrop uncovered a Ponzi scheme that was being operated through a fake crypto exchange platform which offered a weekly 2.5% minimum return on investments. 

Victims were attracted by the succulent offer and the chance to become stakeholders, in turn enticing other investors. However, the investments made by the victims were used by the scammer to fund a lavish lifestyle, say the Spanish police, who seized assets worth over €2.5m ($2.8m).

The Ponzi scheme

According to the police, the 45-year-old scammer created the alleged cryptocurrency investment platform on a website, promoting it through various forums, radio programmes, sporting events and even charity events in order to attract attention and funds from numerous investors in Spain and Portugal.

As a result of the investigation, it was possible to identify several victims in Spain. Furthermore, the investigation revealed that the scammer was committing the same crime in Luxembourg, Switzerland and Portugal.

The operation began last August, after the agents were alerted to the potential scam by a security company. Following an investigation, searches were carried out on 2 December at the home of the detainee, at the company's headquarters and at a workshop where some of the assets were hidden.

Several bank accounts and the web pages for accessing the platform and the pages where it was advertised were blocked. Various documentation was also seized, as were numerous electronic devices including computers, tablets, mobile phones and USB cryptocurrency wallets.

The operation was carried out by agents from the Valencia Civil Guard Command’s Technological Investigations Team (EDITE) and Economic Crimes Team, in collaboration with Europol.

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