Two Estonian citizens arrested in $575 million cryptocurrency fraud and money laundering scheme | USAO-WDWA

Seattle – Two Estonian citizens were arrested in Tallinn, Estonia November 20, 2022, on an 18-count indictment charging conspiracy, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment was returned by a grand jury sitting in the Western District of Washington on October 27 and unsealed today following the arrests. 

According to the indictment, Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, both 37, are alleged to have induced hundreds of thousands of victims to purchase contracts in a cryptocurrency mining service called HashFlare and to invest in a virtual currency bank called Polybius Bank. Victims paid more than $575 million to the defendants’ companies. The defendants then used shell companies to launder the fraud proceeds and to purchase real estate and luxury cars.

“New technology has made it easier for bad actors to take advantage of innocent victims—both in the U.S. and abroad—in increasingly complex scams,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The department is committed to preventing the public from losing more of their hard-earned money to these scams and will not allow these defendants, or others like them, to keep the fruits of their crimes.”

“The size and scope of the alleged scheme is truly astounding. These defendants capitalized on both the allure of cryptocurrency, and the mystery surrounding cryptocurrency mining, to commit an enormous Ponzi scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown of the Western District of Washington. “They lured investors with false representations and then paid early investors off with money from those who invested later. They tried to hide their ill-gotten gain in Estonian properties, luxury cars, and bank accounts and virtual currency wallets around the world. U.S. and Estonian authorities are working to seize and restrain these assets and take the profit out of these crimes.”

“Mr. Potapenko and Mr. Turõgin are charged with defrauding investors out…

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