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Two Nigerians charged in U.S. over cryptocurrency fraud

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Gold plated souvenir Bitcoin coins are arranged for a photograph in London on November 20, 2017.<br />Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency, uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks. Bitcoin’s recent rise and booming investor interest is forcing the regulatory and stock market authorities to formulate an official position on bitcoin and other virtual currencies, which are controversial not only because of their speculative nature, but are also seen as vehicles for illegal activities. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS

The attorney for the United States District of Oregon, Billy Williams, has disclosed that two Nigerians, Kelvin Usifoh, 24, and Onwuemerie Gift of unidentified age, are facing charges for allegedly defrauding people in an online scheme, bitcoin.

A statement published on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the district of Oregon, on Wednesday, said the duo are facing a 13-count charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

The attorney’s office also said between December 2017 and June 2018, the duo had defrauded three victims, one residing in Oregon and two in California, of 10.88 bitcoins worth $59,000 (N21,269,500).

According to the Attorney’s office, the pair launched three fraudulent webpages: wealthcurrency.com, boomcurrency.com, and merrycurrency.com to scam the victims. They promised investors 20-50 per cent returns on investments of bitcoin with zero risk and instant withdrawals.

“In an indictment filed on April 18, 2019, Gift and Usifoh were charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and 11 counts of wire fraud.

“They actively encouraged victims to transfer bitcoin to private virtual currency wallets and made numerous false claims including that their bitcoins would be invested using unique trading methods and they would maintain a constant high-interest rate.”

The statement also explained that after the pair had received the Bitcoin from their victims, they, however, transferred the bitcoins to other accounts for an exchange to Nigerian Naira.

” Beginning in December 2017 and continuing until at June 2018, Gift and Usifoh are alleged to have knowingly conspired to defraud three victims, one residing in Oregon and two in California.

” After receiving bitcoin transfers from their victims, Gift and Usifoh would transfer the bitcoin to other accounts and eventually exchange it for Nigerian Naira.

” The indictment alleges that in just over six months, the defendants stole 10.88 bitcoins worth approximately $59,000 from the three victims. In total, the government alleges Gift and Usifoh received more than 50 bitcoins as part of the scheme,” the statement reads.

The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy had issued an Investor Alert warning investors about investment scams involving websites and trading businesses related to digital asset.


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