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UK Apprehends Cryptocurrency Impostors in £5.7m Scam

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In a recent crackdown on crypto scams, UK authorities have apprehended two individuals accused of orchestrating a £5.7 million cryptocurrency scam that targeted victims worldwide.

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James Heppel, 42, from Staverton in Wiltshire, and Jake Lee, 38, from Charlcombe in Bath, have been charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud.

The duo allegedly defrauded cryptocurrency investors by creating a replica of the popular crypto exchange, Blockchain.com.

Through this fraudulent website, unsuspecting users had their login details stolen, enabling the scammers to pilfer their crypto assets.

The scam affected 55 victims across 26 countries, with 11 victims located in the UK, according to investigations by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU).

The investigation gained momentum when Lee was arrested by the Avon and Somerset Police on suspicion of money laundering.

During the arrest, authorities recovered three Bitcoin wallet recovery seeds, three digital devices, and £24,000 in cash from Lee.

Concurrently, the SWROCU was investigating another crypto scam involving the theft of £11,000 worth of Bitcoin from a Wiltshire resident’s crypto wallet.

The connection to Lee and his associate Heppel was established through the analysis of electronic devices recovered from Lee.

Both Lee and Heppel have pleaded guilty to the charges, with Lee facing a four-year jail sentence and Heppel receiving a 15-month sentence.

Additionally, a confiscation order for £1 million has been issued against Lee.

“This was a complex and time-consuming prosecution involving enquiries with numerous victims and prosecuting authorities worldwide,” commented Pamela Jain, a prosecutor with the Serious Economic Organised Crime International Directorate of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Authorities have managed to recover £64,000 worth of cryptocurrency, £835,000 in cash, three cars, and a print of Banksy’s ‘Bomb Love’ painting valued at £60,000.

The prevalence of cryptocurrency scams in the UK has been on the rise, with reports indicating that UK residents lost an average of £15,000 to crypto scams since October 2022.

These scams encompass various schemes, including investment frauds, phishing scams, and pig butchering scams, according to a report from TRM Labs.

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