IRS Spotlights Most Notable Cryptocurrency Scams in 2023

5 views 7:38 am 0 Comments December 19, 2023
Source: Pixabay / stevepb

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) division has released its list of the top 10 criminal cases of 2023. These cases include the IRS‘s most prominent and high-profile investigations with a significant focus on cryptocurrency-related crimes.

Among the top 10 cases, four involved high-profile cryptocurrency frauds and tax evasion schemes. These included the Silk Road Bitcoin seizure, the sentencing of OneCoin co-founder for a multi-billion dollar scam, the imprisonment of Amir Bruno Elmaani, founder of Oyster Pearl, for tax evasion; and the conviction of Ian Freeman in a Bitcoin money laundering scheme.

“Billions of dollars in fraud, victims across the globe and criminals who are all about personal gain. That’s the crux of 2023’s top 10 cases,” said Criminal Investigation Chief Jim Lee. “When I say our team at CI is the best at following the money trail, I mean it.”

“Our investigators took down international tax schemes that preyed on people’s personal information, investigated multi-level marketing schemes involving cryptocurrency and uncovered one of the largest fraud schemes in history centered around renewable fuel credits,” said Lee.

High Profile Crypto Scheme and Tax Evasion

Karl Sebastian Greenwood, co-founder of the notorious OneCoin scheme, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for orchestrating a vast global fraud. Initiated in 2014, OneCoin, under the guise of a legitimate crypto, duped millions of investors worldwide, leading to over $4 billion in fraudulent investments. Greenwood, along with Ruja Ignatova, known as the Cryptoqueen, masterminded this multi-level-marketing network, which was rooted in misrepresentations and deceit. In addition to his prison sentence, Greenwood was also ordered to forfeit approximately $300 million, marking a significant crackdown on one of the largest cryptocurrency scams to date.

Amir Elmaani, known as “Bruno Block,” the founder of Oyster Protocol, was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion, admitting to unreported profits from selling Pearl tokens and causing over $5.5 million in tax losses. His fraudulent activities in 2017 included minting and dumping PRL tokens on the market, misleading investors, and concealing substantial earnings through extravagant purchases and family proxies, resulting in a substantial restitution order of $5.5 million.

IRS Continues to Hit Crypto AML Cases

Anti-money laundering (AML) was also highlighted in the list. Ian Freeman was sentenced to 96 months in prison for laundering over $10 million through a Bitcoin scheme, involving romance scams and internet frauds. He failed to register his business legally and disabled anti-money laundering measures at his Bitcoin kiosks. Freeman used church-related accounts to hide these activities and evade taxes from 2016 to 2019. He’s also required to pay restitution to victims, with the amount to be determined later.