US arrests two Chinese nationals for $73M crypto scam

Two Chinese nationals, Yicheng Zhang and Daren Li, have been charged by US authorities in a massive cryptocurrency scam totaling $73 million, dubbed “pig butchering.” The scheme involved laundering funds through US bank accounts to the Bahamas, resulting in arrests in Los Angeles and Atlanta. The defendants allegedly instructed accomplices to establish US bank accounts under the guise of shell companies.

US arrests two Chinese nationals for $73M crypto scam

Yicheng Zhang was apprehended in Los Angeles on Thursday, following the unsealing of an indictment in the US District Court for the Central District of California. Daren Li, who holds citizenship in both China and St Kitts and Nevis, was detained at Atlanta’s airport in April. The US government has accused the pair of orchestrating a cryptocurrency investment fraud commonly referred to as “pig butchering,” a burgeoning industry raking in billions globally.

The indictment alleges that they directed others to set up US bank accounts using fictitious company names. Individuals were enticed online to deposit money into these accounts, which were subsequently used to funnel funds through US financial institutions to accounts in the Bahamas. US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco emphasized the reach of the law, stating, “While fraud in the crypto markets takes on many forms and hides in many far-off places, its perpetrators aren’t beyond the law’s reach.”

Both Li and Zhang are now confronting charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, along with six counts of international money laundering. As per the Justice Department, if convicted, they could potentially face up to 20 years in prison for each count, underscoring the gravity of their alleged involvement in the scheme.

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