In Lancashire, North West England, police have successfully returned approximately £8 million ($10 million) in bitcoin to an individual whose cryptocurrency was stolen in 2017. The retrieval follows the sentencing of four individuals earlier in the year for their involvement in a £20 million ($25 million) hack, exploiting a glitch in the Australian crypto trading platform CoinSpot’s transaction recording system. The alleged mastermind, James Parker from Blackpool, coordinated the conspiracy from his council flat but passed away in 2021 due to chronic health issues before facing prosecution.
Parker’s co-conspirators, Stephen Boys, Jordan Robinson, Kelly Caton, and James Auston-Beddoes, received sentences totaling more than 15 years for their roles in the heist. The modus operandi involved Parker exploiting a vulnerability in CoinSpot, allowing him to make withdrawals over a three-month period, converting the cryptocurrency into cash. The conspiracy came to light when Caton reported her daughter stealing 15 bitcoins, leading police to question the origin of the funds. CoinSpot’s founder reportedly hired a private investigator to track down Parker.
The extent of the stolen funds proved challenging for the perpetrators to spend, with members resorting to distributing £5,000 ($6,200) gift cards in the street and Parker purchasing cars for acquaintances in a pub. During the trial, Boys, described as Parker’s corrupt financial adviser, revealed a transaction where he carried £1 million in cash in a suitcase to buy a villa from Russians met in the back office of an estate agent.
As part of the investigation, Lancashire Police recovered 445 bitcoins and various assets, including luxury watches, houses, cars, designer goods, and a £600 ($750) wine cooler, totaling more than £1 million. These assets are set to be returned to the victim. The case highlights the challenges faced by law enforcement in dealing with cryptocurrency-related crimes and the complex web of financial transactions associated with such activities.
The successful recovery showcases the efforts of Lancashire Police in unraveling the intricacies of the conspiracy and restoring stolen assets to the rightful owner. It also underscores the need for ongoing vigilance and investigative capabilities in the face of evolving cybercrime methods, especially those involving digital currencies.