Cryptocurrencies promise to make all kinds of payments easier, including, it now appears, paying a ransom.
In December the New York District Attorney announced an arrest in a kidnapping.
“This case demonstrates the increasingly common intersection between cyber and violent crime — the defendant is charged with coordinating an elaborate kidnapping, armed robbery, and burglary to gain access to the victim’s digital wallet and the significant funds it contained,” said New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.
The story could end up an episode of “Law & Order” before long.
“It all began in a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant in Times Square, where [Louis] Meza met his victim, a business associate, who had earlier disclosed he was an early investor in Ethereum,” reported Fortune.
“On leaving the restaurant, Meza told his associate he had hired an Uber minivan to transport him home.”
The Uber turned out to be a ruse. A gunman was hiding in the vehicle.
The victim lost his phone, apartment keys and the password to his cryptocurrency wallet. Meza used the keys to steal the wallet, a Ledge Nano S, from the apartment, so he could transfer the coins to his own account.
Ledger Nano S is a Bitcoin, Ethereum and Altcoins hardware wallet that connects to a USB port “and embeds a secure OLED display to double-check and confirm each transaction with a single tap on its side buttons.”
Meza was captured after security cameras showed the kidnapper in the apartment building and because he used his real name on the account to which he transferred the stolen currency.
Crypto crime wave
This was not the first kidnapping linked to cryptocurrencies. In December, criminals in the Ukraine successfully secured a ransom of $1 million worth of Bitcoins.
That kidnapping involved six gunmen pushing the victim into a vehicle. The victim was an analyst with EXMO Financial, a crypto exchange based in London.
He was held for two days until the ransom was paid.
Vance warned that this could be just the beginning of crypto-crime. “We can expect this type of crime to become increasingly common as cryptocurrency values surge upward,” said Vance, Jr.
Kidnappers may believe they are less likely to be caught since the ransom can be paid electronically, eliminating the physical transfer of money often shown in movies.
This could embolden then to act, especially in less secure areas of the world where the criminals could be more knowledgeable about cryptocurrencies than the authorities.