Four criminals, including a UK financial adviser, have been sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison for their roles in a £21m ($25.6m, €23.7m) cryptocurrency scam.
Stephen Boys, Kelly Caton, Jordan Robinson and James Austin-Beddoes were found guilty of fraud and converting and transferring criminal property at Preston Crown Court on 13 January 2023.
The quartet worked with ringleader James Parker who ran the operation from his home in Blackpool between October 2017 and January 2018.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Parker identified, and then exploited, a loophole on an Australia-based cryptocurrency exchange trading platform, which allowed him and his four associates to dishonestly obtain credits worth £21m.
More specifically, Parker withdrew £15m, while Caton and Robinson took £2.7m and £1.7m, respectively.
Boys, who acted as Parker’s financial adviser, worked with a UK national living in Dubai, named Kambi, to convert the cryptocurrencies into cash. The money was then laundered via several foreign accounts.
The adviser used to run his own financial planning business in Accrington called Total Financial Planning Services, which closed in September 2019 having only been open for 18 months.
Recovery and restitution
Parker died in January 2021 before he could be prosecuted for his role in the scam. The CPS’ civil recovery unit, however, managed to secure assets worth nearly £1m from him.
A significant amount of the laundered assets have already been returned or are in the process of being recovered on behalf of the Australian trading platform, the CPS added.
Jonathan Kelleher, specialist prosecutor for the CPS, said: “These offenders used the internet from the comfort of their own homes to obtain tens of millions of pounds worth of bitcoin which did not belong to them. Cyber-enabled crime presents an increasing threat to international economic stability, as well as to honest individual investors in cryptocurrency.
“The CPS advised our police partners throughout this international investigation. Painstaking analysis of vast amounts of digital material and collaborative liaison with the Australian and Finnish authorities enabled us to mount a successful prosecution against these criminals.”
David Wainwright of the Lancashire Police added: “This was a large and complex case in which these offenders have now been brought to justice. I would like to thank everyone who worked as a team, together with our partner agencies, to achieve this successful outcome.”