The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has seized virtual currency worth an estimated $112m (£90m, €102m) linked to cryptocurrency investment scams.
Seizure warrants for six virtual currency accounts were authorised by judges in the Arizona, California and Idaho.
According to court documents, the virtual currency accounts were allegedly used to launder proceeds of various cryptocurrency confidence scams.
The DoJ said that, in these schemes, fraudsters cultivated long-term relationships with victims met online, eventually enticing them to make investments in fraudulent cryptocurrency trading platforms.
In reality, however, the funds sent by victims for funnelled to cryptocurrency addresses and accounts controlled by scammers and their co-conspirators.
Kenneth Polite Jr, assistant attorney general of the DoJ’s criminal division, said: “Transnational criminal organisations are combining confidence scams with technological savvy to swindle Americans out of their hard-earned funds.
“These particularly vicious frauds – where scammers carefully cultivate relationships with their victims over time – have devastated families and cost individuals their life savings. Now that we have seized this virtual currency, we will seek to swiftly return it to victims.
“In addition to our tireless efforts to disrupt these schemes, we must also work to raise public awareness and help inform potential victims: be wary of people you meet online; seriously question investment advice, especially about cryptocurrency, from people you have not met in person; and remember, investments that seem too good to be true, usually are.”
Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, added: “Financial fraud schemes like these demonstrate the great lengths criminals will take to swindle innocent victims out of their money.
“We continue to see these schemes evolve and provide new avenues for criminals to exploit. [The] announcement should serve as reminder of the FBI’s unwavering commitment, alongside our federal and international law enforcement partners, to investigating and pursuing criminal actors who seek to defraud the American public. There is no place beyond the reach of the FBI.”