A 46-year-old Sydney man who used stolen identities to launder $43,350 in proceeds of crime through cryptocurrency accounts has been sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment by the Sydney Central Local Court on Wednesday (31 March 2021).
The man used the details of identity theft victims to set up multiple online transaction accounts with a cryptocurrency provider. The digital currency exchange enables people to convert Australian dollars to bitcoin, and vice versa, through Automatic Teller Machines in New South Wales.
Police suspect bitcoin stolen from Western Australia in December 2019 was deposited into the online accounts the man had set up, before he made multiple cash withdrawals from cryptocurrency ATMs.
The man withdrew a total of $43,350 before he was arrested by Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers on 3 June 2020, as he tried to access cash at a cryptocurrency ATM in Sydney’s CBD.
The AFP launched an investigation after the cryptocurrency provider reported suspicious transactions. The investigation identified the same man was withdrawing cash from accounts in seven different names.
When police searched the man’s Sydney CBD home after arresting him, they found $6500 in cash – believed to be the proceeds of crime, a small quantity of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
On 17 February 2021, the man pleaded guilty to seven counts of receiving a designated service, namely a digital currency exchange, under a false customer name, contrary to section 140(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering & Counter Terrorism Financing Act 1995 (Cth).
He also pleaded guilty to possessing identification information intending to engage in conduct that would constitute an offence, contrary to section 372.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) and possessing a prohibited drug (methamphetamine), contrary to section 10(1) of the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (Cth).
The man will be eligible to apply for release on a good behaviour bond after serving 12 months. He has been in custody since his arrest in June (2020).
The AFP is continuing to investigate the source of the bitcoin deposited into the fraudulent accounts, how the man acquired the identification details for the accounts and whether anyone else may be involved in the illegal scheme.
AFP Cybercrime Detective Acting Inspector Thomas Walker said cryptocurrency and criminals dealing in compromised identities present new challenges for law enforcement but our goals remain the same in identifying and prosecuting crime.
“Criminals are continually trying to identify new opportunities to profit at the expense of other people, but we are focused on identifying and stopping anyone who tries to cheat the system and defraud others,” Detective Acting Inspector Walker said.
“The AFP has cyber experts who work closely with industry partners to investigate and combat these types of crimes.”