A Russian bitcoin thief is being sued for more than $100 million USD. The civil case, which is occurring in Northern California, is against BTC-e, a Russian exchange, and one its owners, Alexander Vinnik.
Vinnik Is Raising Too Many Eyebrows
The case alleges that Vinnik may have violated the Bank Secrecy Act. Attorneys for the defendants say he potentially stole bitcoin units from several other exchanges in 2017. They are now pushing for a criminal case, though it’s unlikely this will hold sway in court. Thus, the suit is for penalties, damages and repayment of all the currency that was ultimately taken to ensure all monies are accounted for.
At present, BTC-e has offices in both Seychelles (Africa) and Cyprus (Europe), though its customers exist from all over the world including California.
Vinnik was ultimately found in Greece and detained by U.S. authorities who sought to charge him with running an illegal exchange that may have allowed criminals to hide their funds and launder billions of dollars-worth of illicitly obtained currency. Per analyst firm Elliptic, regulators were able to track some of these illegal bitcoins to a user going by the name of “Fancy Bear.” It is alleged that this is one of the secret Russian operatives that released Democrats’ emails in the 2016 election.
Vinnik is presently in prison, though he’s facing extradition requests from both Russia and the U.S. His lawyers are attempting to fight both requests as his jail term was extended by another six months.
Lawsuits like these are becoming more and more common, and suggest that perhaps regulators, financial institutions and the general public now see cryptocurrencies as more legit forms of money that deservingly hold a place with USD, gold and other forms of “reliable assets.” Recently, a judge allowed a multi-million-dollar suit against cell phone and internet provider AT&T to move forward after cryptocurrency investor and entrepreneur Michael Terpin lost several million dollars-worth of crypto funds following a SIM-swapping incident.
This Is Happening Everywhere
Terpin alleges that a hacker stole crypto funds through his phone by bribing an AT&T employee for his private data. Terpin says that AT&T did not do enough to protect his information or keep his identity secure. He also alleges that he was the victim of two separate SIM-swapping attacks that ultimately led to his losses.
AT&T is fighting the allegations and says it is not responsible for the actions against Terpin, though a federal judge in Los Angeles, CA sees things very differently. In allowing the lawsuit to go forward, the court is issuing a message to crypto holders everywhere that while crypto is an emerging technology, their privacy and funds will be taken into consideration as much as those who potentially lose fiat to bad actors, thereby solidifying the legitimacy of crypto even further.