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Abducted— A Case of Bitcoin Kidnapping

Updated: Apr 29

It was a typical day at the Manhattan Times Square Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant when Louis Meza met with a business associate who invested early in Ethereum, a cryptocurrency that features smart contract functionality. To outward appearances, it was just two people getting together to talk and get a bite to eat.


As the two left the restaurant, Meza said he had hired an Uber minivan to take him home. When the van arrived, Meza insisted his associate get in the van. Shortly after the van drove away from the restaurant, a man appeared from his crotched hiding place in the back seat, pointed a gun at the associate.


The gunman demanded that the associate, now a victim of a crime, turn over his apartment keys, his phone, and the mnemonic phrase to his Ledger Nano S, the hardware wallet the victim used to safeguard and store his cryptocurrency offline. Luckily the victim was then able to flee from his abductors.


Meza quickly entered the victim’s apartment, stole the Ledger Nano S, and transferred the Ethereum into his own account using the victim’s mnemonic phrase to gain access to the cryptocurrency and transfer the funds. Fortunately, Meza wasn’t the brightest of thieves. He was spotted and recorded by the victim’s apartment building’s surveillance camera, which helped prosecutors make the case that he was behind the crypto kidnapping scheme.


He also made the mistake of transferring the stolen Ethereum to an account under his own name before he exchanged the Ethereum to Bitcoin and deposited it another account.

In doing so, the crypto-savvy force in the New York DA’s office was able to recover the cryptocurrency.


Today, crimes involving cryptocurrency include:


  • Crypto-ransom (kidnapping)

  • Crypto-ransom (malware)

  • Money laundering

  • Extortion

  • Tax evasion

  • Fraud

  • Buying and selling of illegal goods and services

  • Terrorism financing

  • Human trafficking

  • And more

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