US arrests 2 Chinese for laundering $73M tied to crypto scams

US arrests 2 Chinese for laundering $73M tied to crypto scams

Cryptocurrency wallet involved in scheme received more than $341M in virtual assets, says Justice Department

By Ovunc Kutlu

ISTANBUL (AA) - Two Chinese nationals were arrested in the US for laundering at least $73 million through shell companies tied to cryptocurrency investment scams, the Justice Department said Friday.

Daren Li, 41, a dual citizen of China and St. Kitts and Nevis, and a resident of China, Cambodia, and the United Arab Emirates, was arrested on April 12 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and subsequently transported to the Central District of California, it said in a statement.

Yicheng Zhang, 38, a Chinese national and resident of Temple City, California, was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles, California, it added.

Li, Zhang, and other conspirators allegedly managed an international syndicate that laundered proceeds from cryptocurrency investment scams, while victims of the schemes under investigation were fraudulently induced into transferring millions of dollars to American bank accounts opened in the names of dozens of shell companies that facilitated the laundering of fraud proceeds, it said.

A network of money launderers then facilitated the transfer of those funds to other domestic and international bank accounts and cryptocurrency platforms in a manner designed to conceal the source, nature, ownership, and control of the funds, according to the agency.

The proceeds was laundered through the US financial institutions to bank accounts in The Bahamas, and then converted to the virtual asset USDT, also known as Tether, it added.

A cryptocurrency wallet involved in the scheme received more than $341 million in virtual assets, it noted.

"As alleged in the indictment, Li and Zhang helped launder millions of dollars obtained from victims of cryptocurrency investment scams,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "Money laundering is critical to the success of these scams, allowing fraudsters to quickly move illicit proceeds and try to make them appear legitimate."

Li and Zhang are both charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and six substantive counts of international money laundering. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count.

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