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UK police bust a fast food worker turned £3 billion bitcoin scam member on a £7.5 million money laundering charge

 Fake Bitcoin on pile of coins.
Fake Bitcoin on pile of coins.

It's not every day that you read that a five-year investigation to crack an illegal operation involving billions of pounds worth of bitcoin was solved thanks to the excessive spending habits of an ex-takeaway worker, but that's exactly what's recently happened. The person in question has been found guilty of laundering 150 bitcoins, worth a mere £7.5 million, but the UK's Metropolitan Police ultimately seized a staggering total of 61,000 cryptocoins.

Details of Jian Wen's conviction (via The Guardian) highlight that she originally lived and worked in a Chinese takeaway restaurant in Leeds, UK, before becoming involved in a complex and large scale cryptocurrency scam, which involved using illegally-gained bitcoins to pay for expensive houses and luxury items.

In 2017, Wen was tasked with acting as an employee of an international jewellery business, and initially rented a property in London (apparently worth £17,000 per month) and from there, she travelled the world, using the cryptocurrency to attempt purchasing further properties in London and Dubai, as well as expensive jewellery in Zurich. She even used them to pay for private school tuition fees for her son.

However, in the UK, there are laws that basically go along the lines of if you're moving or spending very large amounts of money, you also need to be able to prove exactly where that cash has come from. In Wen's case, she attempted to pass the money-laundering checks by claiming it was all earned from bitcoin mining.

Her claims weren't believed, the authorities were alerted, and ultimately she was arrested and convicted on a money laundering charge, over 150 bitcoins worth £7.5 million. However, in the investigation, the police seized a total of 61,000 bitcoins, all stored in a multitude of devices, which is worth over £3 billion at today's prices.

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While the crypto-scam has been broken, the primary ring leader has yet to be caught, and it's thought that the operation was part of a larger investment fraud scheme, taking place in China. If you are wondering what will ultimately happen to all those bitcoins, the UK's Crown Prosecution Service is working on a so-called civil recovery investigation, with the aim of the cryptocoins being forfeited.

Keen followers of cryptocurrency will know that it's a favoured means of laundering money, in the world of fraudsters and scammers, but this particular story shows that the scale of it all is perhaps beyond most folks' understanding.