As cryptocurrencies begin to catch on, criminals are starting to realize the potential gains they could make from stealing a bit for themselves.
Three New Yorkers in particular—one of them a worker at a church and another who worked at the Education Department—were caught last year by authorities after they attempted to rob an individual in possession of around $1.8 million in Ether and had their first day in court today.
All three suspects pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, robbery, and burglary.
The heist was organized by Louis Meza, who set up a meeting with the victim and pretended to order a ride through Uber to bring him back home. Once the victim was inside the car, Darrell Colon—hidden in the rear of the vehicle—pointed a weapon at the individual, asking for his private key and the USB dongle that contained the credentials to his Ethereum wallet.
Reports aren’t clear on whether the USB stick was in fact a hardware wallet or a simple NAND flash device storing information that could be used to make transactions. The thieves, fortunately, weren’t very competent, as they allowed the victim to escape.
“The victim was able to run, terrified, for two blocks until he was able to reach a grocery store and call 911,” said the prosecutor.
Despite the escape, however, Meza managed to get his hands on the cryptocurrency and transfer all $1.8 million to his own account after holding the victim inside the van for two hours. This transfer cannot be reversed and it’s quite possible that the victim will never see the Ether again.
The actors in this heist are all facing 25 years in prison for grand larceny and kidnapping.