Wybo Wiersma, a 40-year-old Dutchman who studied at Oxford’s St Cross College, was sentenced to 54 months in prison for stealing £2,156,000 (more than $2.6 million) using a cryptocurrency scheme. Wiersma had set up a website under a false name, which generated “seeds” that users believed were not compromised. However, a malicious code was attached to the “seeds”, which enabled Wiersma access to clients’ assets. He then transferred the stolen funds into his accounts and converted them into Monero (XMR) using Bitfinex. When Bitfinex requested proof of identification, Wiersma provided fake passports, which prompted him to use Binance’s services instead. The world’s leading crypto exchange quickly detected his plans, suspending his access to the accounts.
A number of affected investors reported their missing assets to the German police in 2018, and UK enforcement agents eventually tracked down Wiersma to his home in Oxford. Judge Michael Gledhill KC sentenced him to four and a half years in prison, stating that his actions were motivated by “greed and dishonesty”.
Crypto scams have become increasingly popular in the UK over the past few years, with the market decline in 2022 not halting the activities of bad actors. In fact, crypto scams increased by a third between October 2021 and September 2022. David Lindberg, Chief Executive Officer of retail banking at NatWest, has urged the British government, the police, banks, and social media operators to join forces and tackle the issue. He has stated that fraudsters are “intelligent” and “move fast”, and that it is heartbreaking to see how they try to destroy lives.