Working in a joint operation with the Hessen State Police in Germany, the National Crime Agency and Europol, officers from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) have arrested a 36 year-old male on suspicion of fraud, theft and money laundering. The man was arrested by SEROCU officers following a search warrant enacted at an address in Oxford. A number of computers and electronic devices were seized.
The operation was launched following the theft of around €10 million in the IOTA cryptocurrency from over 85 victims worldwide post-January last year.
The investigation began in early 2018 when the Hessen State Police received several reports of money been stolen from their cryptocurrency wallets. Further investigations revealed the existence of fraud from the website Iotaseed.io targeting the users of the IOTA cryptocurrency.
IOTA wallets are protected by an 81-digit seed which can be generated using seed-generators found online, such as on the official IOTA website. Among the sites promoted online was a malicious seed-generator running on iotaseed.io. Several victims created the seed on this website in good faith. However, the seeds were stored in the background by the service provider.
Later, the criminal used these to gain access to the victims’ wallets and transferred their money to other wallets created with fake IDs.
In July last year, German authorities identified a possible suspect behind the fraud case living in the UK. The case was given to the Joint Cyber Crime Action Task Force (J-CAT) hosted at Europol’s European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3), where analytical support duly delivered allowed the J-CAT to co-ordinate international co-operation between the different EU Member States involved.
In addition, an operational meeting was organised at Europol’s headquarters between German and British investigators and Europol’s EC3. The meeting proved to be invaluable for the smooth exchange of intelligence and evidence between the German and British authorities which has now led to this arrest.