A New Jersey-based man was charged last week with kidnapping his friend and stealing US$1.8 million (roughly HK$14.04 million) worth of cryptocurrency from him.
Louis Meza, 35, invited his friend to his apartment on the night of Nov. 4. The friend, as Meza suspected, owned a virtual wallet containing the cryptocurrency ether worth US$1.8 million, Gizmodo reports, citing a statement from the Manhattan District Attorney.
After their meeting, Meza told his friend that he had arranged for a car service to take him back home. However, on the way to the victim’s apartment, a man with a gun suddenly emerged from the minivan and demanded the victim turn over his cellphone, wallet and keys.
Security video footage obtained from the victim’s apartment building showed that Meza entered the victim’s apartment with the keys taken from the victim and then left the apartment holding a box, which is believed to contain the victim’s digital wallet, the district attorney said in the statement.
Records also showed that Meza transferred around US$1.8 million in ether to his own personal account, soon after obtaining the victim’s digital wallet, according to the statement.
Meza was arrested and charged with grand larceny in the first degree, kidnapping in the second degree, robbery in the first degree, criminal use of a firearm in the first degree and four other offenses, according to an indictment issued by the New York State Supreme Court last week.
Meza pleaded not guilty. He was held on a bond of US$1 million or bail of US$500,000 cash, Bloomberg reported.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said the type of crimes in the Meza case will happen more frequently as the value of cryptocurrencies continues to surge, adding that hacking, data breaches and fraud are not the only threats to cryptocurrency investors.
Eric Fan, convener of information security at the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, reminded investors to treat cryptocurrency as they would other forms of property.
They should not disclose their possession of such assets to others, Fan said, adding that they should store their digital wallets and passcodes separately.
He said most of the hardware parts for digital wallets that are available in the market now come with a lost-and-found function. Thus, the owner can still claim back their cryptocurrency if they lose the hardware.
In case of a robbery, users can immediately transfer their cryptocurrency to another wallet after they manage to escape safely.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 19
Translation by Jonathan Chong
[Chinese version 中文版]
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