In a recent crypto investigation, the US FBI successfully infiltrated a group of Indian nationals suspected of being involved in illegal activities involving exchange of cryptocurrencies worth over $15 million in cash.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
The alleged transactions took place at various locations in Westchester County, where the group was serving clients seeking anonymity for their activities.
Crypto crime exposed
According to recent reports, five of the six suspects were captured on October 17 and later charged in U.S. District Court, White Plains.
The charges primarily revolve around operating an unlicensed money-transmission business. The investigation unfolded with the assistance of law enforcement agents, who monitored 80 “cash transfers”.
The FBI’s investigation began in April 2021 when they identified a suspect operating in “dark web” criminal markets.
Although the individuals are not named in the criminal complaint, they are believed to be co-conspirators of the arrested local suspects. Specifically, the suspect offered to send customers cash in exchange for cryptocurrency.
According to the complaint, the unnamed co-conspirator disclosed to an undercover officer in January that some of his clients were involved in drug sales, while his wealthy clients were hackers.
The co-conspirator claims to have earned approximately $30 million over three years by exchanging cash for cryptocurrency.
In February, a man responsible for sending packages of cash on behalf of the co-conspirator was arrested. The complaint reveals that the man had been receiving bags of cash from different individuals at the Westchester County Post Office three times a week for 18 months. The cash bundles ranged from $100,000 to $300,000.
In order to receive leniency during sentencing, the above individual agreed to assist the FBI in their investigation. Over several months (from February 10 to September 27), he allegedly participated in 80 controlled cash pick-ups amounting to $15,067,000.
One of the men arrested, Raju “Jay” Patel of Flushing Queens, played a key role in the operation. The complaint alleges his involvement in 58 cash transfers totaling $10.8 million.
Raju collected cash from various locations in George, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Subsequently, Raju allegedly coordinated the transfers with a co-conspirator and confidential FBI source.
On March 6, Raju allegedly arranged for an exchange of $250,000 at a Tarrytown supermarket parking lot. Surveillance conducted by law enforcement agents captured Raju leaving his Queens apartment with an orange cloth bag, which he handed to a confidential FBI source upon arriving in Tarrytown. The bag reportedly contained $249,715.
illegal cash exchange
A similar exchange occurred in a parking lot in Port Chester, leading to further identification of the suspects involved. On August 6, Shaileshkumar Goyani reportedly handed over a bag containing $114,000 to an FBI confidential source.
Besides Goyani, the complaint has identified Brijeshkumar “Sameer” Patel, Hirenkumar Patel, Naineshkumar Patel and Nileshkumar Patel as additional suspects in the case.
All suspects are charged with operating a money-transmitting business without a license under New York and federal laws.
According to an affidavit by FBI agent Lawrence Lonergan, such unlicensed money-transmitting businesses operate as shadow banks, enabling money to pass without the scrutiny imposed by Congress on the United States financial system.
While the charges against Goianni of crypto fraud remain unproven, his defense attorney, Daniel A. Hochheiser, insists that his client has not been indicted by the grand jury. Hochheiser further said that whenever an indictment is issued, Goyani intends to plead not guilty.
Featured image from Shutterstock, chart from tradingview.com