US arrests two Chinese nationals in $73 million crypto scam



  • US authorities arrested Daren Li and Yicheng Zhang in connection with a $73 million money laundering scheme.
  • The defendants laundered the money via US and international bank accounts.
  • Proceeds of the investment scam were converted to the USDT stablecoin.

The US Department of Justice has charged two Chinese nationals alleged to have played a prominent role in a scheme that laundered $73 million in cryptocurrency investment schemes.

According to an indictment unsealed on Thursday in the Central District of California, authorities arrested Daren Li, 41, on April 12 and Yicheng Zhang, 38, on May 16.

Li is a dual citizen of China and St. Kitts and Nevis, while Zhang is a Temple City, California.

Defendants ran an international crypto investment scam

Li, Zhang and others are alleged to have been behind an international money laundering syndicate that scammed victims via pig butchering, among the common crypto scams.  

In Court documents show that the suspects laundered proceeds of these crypto scams via bank accounts of multiple shell companies.

DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs announced that more than $73 million was defrauded from victims and laundered through US and international bank accounts. The laundered money found its way to The Bahamas and was converted to Tether (USDT).

“Cryptocurrency investment scams exploit the borderless nature of virtual currency and online communications to defraud victims,” Lisa Monaco, the United States Deputy Attorney General, said in the press release.

“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. Today, we announce the arrests of two foreign nationals charged for leading a scheme to launder funds to the tune of at least $73 million tied to an international crypto investment scam,” she added.

According to the court documents, a crypto wallet linked to the scam received more than $341 million in cryptocurrencies.

The DOJ has charged Li and Zhang with conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as six counts of international money laundering. Each of the counts carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

In November last year, the DOJ said it had seized $9 million in USDT linked to an international romance and pig butchering scheme.



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