A gang of criminals in Brazil have reportedly stolen more than $200 million from around 55,000 local residents. According to The Next Web, the criminals promoted a fraudulent crypto-related scheme which involved operating an unregistered financial services firm. The fraudsters promised unsuspecting investors around a 15% return on their invested capital, local news outlet Correio Do Povo confirmed.
Nearly $250 Million Allegedly Stolen
Brazil’s Federal Revenue Service revealed that the scammers raised approximately 850 million Brazilian Reals ($210 million) by February 2019 from unsuspecting investors. Notably, local police officials believe the fraudsters could have stolen up to R$1 billion (appr. $250 million).
Brazil’s Federal Police department and the nation’s Federal Revenue Agency have now managed to shut down the fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme. Referred to as Operation Egypto, the cryptocurrency scam is currently being investigated – as authorities have issued 10 arrest warrants.
Investing In Cryptoassets Is Not Illegal In Brazil
Brazilian law enforcement agencies have also executed 25 search and seizure orders across eight different cities in the South American country. As confirmed by local sources, the criminals had set up their fraudulent crypto business in the Brazilian city of Novo Hamburgo.
Clarifying that investing in cryptoassets is not illegal in Brazil, Eduardo Dalmolin, a senior official at the nation’s Office of Corruption and Financial Crimes, remarked:
The problem with this company is that it was acting without authorization.
Using Investors’ Money To Buy Luxury Items
After conducting an extensive investigation, Brazilian authorities reportedly found that the accused had not been making investing in cryptocurrencies. Instead, they were using the investors’ money to buy luxury items including expensive cars, real estate, and fancy jewelry. The scammers also reportedly invested small amounts in fixed rate, low-yield investments.
Brazilian police officials have managed to seize the scammer’s assets which include an undisclosed amount of cash, several real estate properties, 36 luxury cars, among other things.
Drug Trafficking And Money Laundering Using Bitcoin
Currently, the accused are also being investigated for their alleged involvement in financial misappropriation, money laundering, fraudulent management, and orchestrating a large-scale organized crime.
Earlier this year, Brazilian police officials arrested a man who was allegedly involved in operating a drug trafficking ring and engaging in money laundering using bitcoin. After investigating the matter, authorities managed to seize more than R$250,000 (appr. $63,000) worth of mining hardware used to mine the pseudonymous cryptocurrency.