A U.K. court has sentenced four men to 15 years in prison for illicitly obtaining £21 million ($25 million) worth of digital assets through an Australian cryptocurrency exchange.
Preston Crown Court based in Lancashire, England sentenced Stephen William Boys, 58, Kelly Caton, 44, Jordan Kane Robinson, 23, and James Austin-Beddoes, 27.
Jurors found them guilty of fraudulently obtaining millions in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency from Australia-based cryptocurrency exchange CoinSpot. They were also found guilty of laundering the property, once it had been obtained illicitly.
The four had been brought together by James Parker, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy who died in Jan. 2021.
Exchange Defrauded of $18 million
From his home in Blackpool, Parker had exploited a flaw in the exchange’s infrastructure, enabling him to collect millions of pounds in crypto. Between Oct. 2017 and Jan. 2018, Parker withdrew crypto assets worth £15 million ($18 million). Caton and Robinson, associates favored with knowledge of the exploit, also withdrew £2.7 million and £1.7 million, respectively.
Having obtained the cryptocurrency, Parker then sought out his financial advisor, Boys, to help him convert it into cash. Working with Kambi, a U.K. national based in Dubai, Boys laundered the funds through a variety of foreign accounts.
Investigators Worked with Australian and Finnish Counterparts
Due to the technical expertise required for the investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service collaborated extensively. For instance, its Civil Recovery Unit worked with specialist officers from the North West Regional Organized Crime Unit. Together, they located and identified the stolen assets and obtained a Civil Recovery Order in the High Court, at an estimated value of nearly £1 million.
The partnerships also extended internationally, according to one CPS official. He described working with Australian and Finnish authorities in order to analyze a significant amount of digital material. Authorities are still recovering assets, but have already returned a significant portion to the exchange. Although Parker died before he could be prosecuted, investigators have still secured a £1 million civil recovery order against his estate.
U.K. Crypto Crime on the Rise
The U.K. National Crime Agency found money laundering to be one of the primary reasons criminals turn to crypto. According to the report, the agency seized crypto worth £26.89 million (approximately $32.4 million) between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. Over the course of 2022, the crypto industry experienced hacks worth over $3 billion.
To combat the growth in crypto-related crime, the agency launched a specialized unit, “NCCU Crypto Cell.” As of the beginning of the month, the agency is seeking experts with a “specialist cryptocurrency experience.” According to the job listings, the agency is offering a salary in the range between £40,209 and £43,705.
BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.