Three wannabe crypto-millionaires accused of a violent kidnapping involving a fake Uber driver and a volatile digital currency were indicted on Tuesday, and now face a slew of charges related to their elaborate, hypermodern crime.
According to the Manhattan district attorney's office, Cesar Guzman, Allan Nunez and Darrell Colon posed as an Uber driver and passengers back in November, in order to lure an acquaintance into turning over his millions of dollars in virtual currency. A fourth man named Louis Meza is credited with orchestrating the caper, allegedly convincing the mark to enter the vehicle, then breaking into his home to steal the alt-currency.
Once the victim was in the car, Colon, 37, allegedly pulled on gun on him and demanded his phone, wallet, house keys and memory stick required to access his Ether account, which contained approximately $1.8 million. After passing the items onto Meza, the crooks then grilled the man about the 24-word passphrase associated with his digital wallet. He relented, and Meza was able to access the digital wallet and transfer the nearly $2 million to his personal account. He was captured on surveillance footage, and soon arrested.
The victim, meanwhile, was able to escape from the vehicle and call 911 from a nearby deli.
Guzman, Nunez and Colon were charged Tuesday with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree, Kidnapping in the Second Degree, and Robbery in the First Degree, among other charges. Guzman, who is employed by the Department of Education, reportedly recruited the two other men from a motorcycle gang that all three were involved with.
"Investors aren’t the only ones tracking the fluctuating values of digital currencies—everyone from sophisticated cybercriminals to old-school shakedown-and-stick-up scammers are keeping a close eye, too," D.A. Cy Vance said in a statement.
According to an industry report, $1.1 billion in cryptocurrency has been stolen this year, much of it through malware purchased on the dark web. As far as we know, those Bitcoin ATMs have not yet been compromised.