The leader of a crypto criminal conspiracy has been jailed for 10 years after admitting to stealing 1.8 million USD worth of Ethereum coins (Ether) from an associate using a BB gun. Three other suspects are awaiting trial for their alleged participation in the same plot. The case highlights cryptocurrency’s vulnerability to old-fashioned forms of robbery despite its myriad hi-tech security features.
On November 4 2017, a stick-up was executed by Louis Meza, 35, of New Jersey, USA on the streets of New York with three accomplices in tow. Their unnamed target was an associate who had confided to one or more of the group that they had holdings of Ether and SALT tokens worth millions of dollars.
Meza lured the victim to a meeting in Times Square, after which he suggested the Ether millionaire take a taxi home. At this point, Meza directed the victim towards a mini-van where his crypto criminal gang were lying in wait. Alleged accomplice, Darren “Bishop” Colon then produced a BB gun, pointed it at the victim and demanded he hand over his house keys and the access codes to his cryptocurrency wallets. After the victim had complied, he was bundled into the back of the van and a hood was placed over his head.
The ordeal lasted for several hours as Meza, Colon and two other men – who are suspected of being Allen “Joke” Nunez and Cesar “Fuego” Guzman – transferred funds from their prey’s crypto wallets into wallets controlled by them. After being released, the victim reported the offence to police and the crypto criminal gang was quickly rounded up.
Meza was found guilty this week of first-degree grand larceny and second-degree kidnapping. He will be sentenced on November 4 when it’s expected that he’ll receive 10 years jail time and a further 5 years of post-release supervision having refused to testify against his co-accused. All stolen funds have been recovered and returned.
About the conviction, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. crowed;
“Louis Meza orchestrated a 21st-century stick-up. Then 21st-century investigators brought him swiftly to justice, securing a landmark conviction in an undeveloped area of the law.”
One would imagine that the traceable nature of transactions on the Ethereum network played a large part in the swift resolution of this malfeasance. However, this case also proves that no amount of cryptography is going to protect your cryptocurrency if the cast of the Sopranos come looking for you armed with a BB gun.
For secure storage, the Ledger hardware wallet is still your best bet. That and a sturdy pair of safety goggles, because BB guns are all fun and games until someone loses an eye!