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IRS counts down biggest crypto fraud schemes of the year

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IRS counts down biggest crypto fraud schemes of the year
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The Criminal Investigation division of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service published a list of its top ten “most prominent and high-profile” cases it investigated in 2023, and four of them involved crypto.

“Our investigators took down international tax schemes that preyed on people’s personal information, investigated multi-level marketing schemes involving cryptocurrency and uncovered one of the largest fraud schemes in history centered around renewable fuel credits,” division chief Jim Lee said in a statement on Monday.

Cases that made it to the top ten list involved both well-known crimes and some less public ones.

Coming in at number eight on the list was cryptocurrency founder “Bruno Block,” who was sentenced to four years in prison. Amir Bruno Elmaani launched a cryptocurrency named Oyster Pearl in 2017 that was designed to serve as a utility token for an online data storage platform. 

“Elmaani did not file a tax return and reported he had no income to the IRS in 2018,” the IRS wrote. “However, in 2018, Elmaani spent over $10 million for the purchase of multiple yachts, $1.6 million at a carbon-fiber composite company, hundreds of thousands of dollars at a home improvement store, and over $700,000 for the purchase of two homes.” Elmaani was sentenced to 48 months in prison and ordered to pay $5.5 million restitution. 

Silk Road hacker

Coming in at number seven on the list was a Silk Road fraud defendant who was sentenced following the seizure and forfeiture of over $3.4 billion in crypto. A hacker named James Zhong stole 50,000 bitcoins from Silk Road, the first darknet marketplace that accepted bitcoin and was taken down by U.S. authorities in 2013.

Zhong was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and ordered to forfeit his property and all of his bitcoin, worth about $3.4 billion at the time of forfeiture.

In the fourth spot on the list was a New Hampshire man who was sentenced to eight years in prison for operating a bitcoin money laundering scheme. Ian Freeman helped launder $10 million in proceeds from various online scams by exchanging dollars for bitcoin, the IRS wrote. Freeman was sentenced to 96 months in prison and two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution to victims. 

Finally, in the number three spot on the list was the co-founder of OneCoin, a scam that convinced millions of victims around the world to invest over $4 billion in a cryptocurrency that was never launched. Karl Sebastian Greenwood was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay approximately $300 million.

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© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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