U.S. Returns $154 Million in Bitcoins Stolen by Sony Employees

The United States has announced that it has taken legal action to seize and return more than $154 million in bitcoins allegedly stolen by employees in a Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack from Sony Life Insurance Company Ltd, a subsidiary of SONY.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21165768-us_vs_rei_ishii_bc_forfeiture

According to the government, Rei Ishii, an employee of Sony Life Insurance Co. in Tokyo, stole more than $154 million from Sony Life Insurance Co.

By forging transaction instructions, Ishii allegedly moved the funds to an account controlled by him at a bank in La Jolla, California.

Converting Stolen Funds into Bitcoins

According to court documents, Ishii changed the destination of Sony Life’s transactions to an account at Silvergate Bank that he controlled.

He then converted the stolen funds into more than 3,879 bitcoins. Coinbase was set up to automatically transfer all of the added funds to an offline cryptocurrency cold wallet with a bitcoin address of bc1q7rhc02dvhmlfu8smywr9mayhdph85jlpf6paqu.

https://www.blockchain.com/btc/address/bc1q7rhc02dvhmlfu8smywr9mayhdph85jlpf6paqu

After converting it to cryptocurrency, I also emailed the ransom note, typed in English and Japanese, to my boss and several executives at Sony Life to convince them not to cooperate with the investigation.

If you agree to the settlement, we will return the funds to you, but if criminal charges are filed against you, it will be impossible to recover the funds.

We strongly recommend that you stop communicating (sic) with any third parties, including law enforcement agencies.

Cryptocurrency seized by FBI investigation

However, on December 1, as a result of a joint investigation with Japanese law enforcement, the FBI seized 3879.16242937 BTC in Ishii’s wallet after obtaining the private key, enabling all bitcoins to be transferred to the FBI’s bitcoin wallet.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.

Sony and Citibank cooperated by contacting the police as soon as the theft was discovered, and the FBI worked with both to locate the funds.

In addition, international operations through the FBI’s Legal Attaché Office and the existing relationships the FBI has established overseas, in this case in Japan, allowed the police to work together to identify the subject.

On the same day, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested 32-year-old Ishii and filed criminal charges against him for allegedly obtaining $154 million through illegal money transfers since mid-May.

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2021120100735/

This case is an example of the great work done by FBI agents and Japanese law enforcement working together to track down this virtual currency. Criminals should take note. You can’t rely on cryptocurrency to hide your ill-gotten gains from law enforcement.

said Randy Grossman, Deputy U.S. Attorney.

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