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Gang Steals $450,000 During Crypto Trade-Turned-Heist

2 mins
Updated by Ryan Smith
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In Brief

  • A woman was tricked into sending USDT in a P2P transaction.
  • She was tied to a chair as a gang jumped her and stole her iPhone.
  • Another similar crime occurred nearby at the start of January 2021.
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A Hong Kong woman lost HK$3.5 million when an OTC purchase went awry. This is the second such heist in as many weeks.

Knifepoint Crypto

Buying and selling crypto can be stressful enough without being robbed at gunpoint. But for one Hong Kong woman, a backdoor crypto-trading deal turned into a hold-up. According to the South China Morning Post, thieves got away with HK$3.5 million (US$448,700).

But this wasn’t a simple robbery. The woman, a crypto trader who remains anonymous, said that criminals lured her to an office for a peer-to-peer (P2P) transaction. She believed she would trade USDT for Hong Kong dollars.

In the office, which had been rented out short-term, the criminals, posing as OTC traders, watched her send the USDT over her iPhone. After completing the transaction and receiving the cash, a gang of three more men rushed into the room.

They stole her phone and tied her to the chair, locked the office, and fled. Naturally, the robbers took the cash with them.

The robbery, which was the second of its kind in as many weeks, occurred in the middle of the afternoon. The seller said she had sold the man two smaller crypto transactions of HK$600,000 and HK$700,000 without issue. This was done apparently to earn her trust.

Authorities became aware of the robbery when the woman, who carried a second phone, called her husband. He called the police and she was found safely in the office, apparently without injuries.

An unnamed source told the South China Morning Post that the trader’s uncle, who had driven her to the meeting and was waiting downstairs, saw the four men leap into a delivery van and drive away.

Investigators searched the office, but have yet to make arrests.

More Robberies Than One

Despite the unusual nature of the crime, it’s not the first to hit Hong Kong. On Jan 4, 2021, a group of robbers stole HK$3 million from a 37-year-old man. He met them in a car. After he sent the cryptocurrency, they kicked him out of the vehicle.

As with the other robbery, the criminals first handed over the cash, and then took it back before making their escape. That particular transaction involved 15 bitcoin, ~$557,409 as of writing.

A different source explained that, like the first robbery, the victim had made two successful deals with the robbers before he was blindsided. This may be related, though police have not confirmed anything.

According to police, the first ten months of 2020 saw 242 reports of robbery, up 103% from the previous year. While most stolen crypto appears to happen via digital means, physical encounters are not unheard of.

In 2019, a bitcoin millionaire in Norway escaped a robber trying to drain his wallet at gunpoint. In September 2020, a Singaporean man assaulted a victim similarly to steal crypto (he was apprehended). In January 2020, it was estimated that $16.7 billion in cryptocurrency had been stolen since the creation of Bitcoin.

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Harry Leeds
Harry Leeds is a writer, editor, and journalist who spent much time in the former USSR covering food, cryptocurrencies, and healthcare. He also translates poetry and edits the literary magazine