FBI’s investigation of the theft of the $150 million from a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Group Corporation has been traced to Bitcoin(BTC).
The Department of Justice(DoJ), US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California issued a press release on 20 December 2021 stating that Rei Ishii, an emplyee of Sony LIfe Insurance Company Ltd., allegedly embezzled the $154 million when the company attempted to transfer funds between its financial accounts.
After acquiring certain insurance companies, Sony Life was to transfer funds from its Citibank account in Bermuda to its Japanese accounts.
Ishii managed to embezzle these funds by distorting the transaction instructions, which caused the funds to transfer into an account controlled by him at the Silvergate bank in La Jolla, California. the money from these funds was immediately used to buy 3,879 Bitcoins on Coinbase. He tried to cloak this theft by transferring the bought Bitcoins into a hardware wallet, in an attempt to ensure that the essence and ownership of the funds were unknown.
Like stealing wasn’t bad enough, Ishii tried to coerce Sony Life into an arrangement. He asserted that it would not be possible for the company to recover any part of the stolen money. Ishii even alleged that the company would go down with him if they filed criminal charges against him.
However, the FBI tracked down the funds and seized them on 1 December 2021. The stolen money in the form of Bitcoins was then transferred to the FBI San Diego’s Bitcoin wallet.
Stolen money accounts to $180 million in Bitcoin cryptocurrency: FBI
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, “It is our intent to return the stolen money to the victim of this audacious theft, and today’s action helps us do that.” He further went on to thank the prosecution team, the FBI, and Japanese authorities for their impeccable work on the case.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner said,
“The FBI was able to recover these stolen funds for two very important reasons, first, Sony and Citibank immediately contacted and cooperated with law enforcement as soon as the theft was detected, and the FBI worked in partnership with both to locate the funds. Second, the FBI’s footprint internationally through our Legal Attaché offices and the pre-existing relationships we have established in foreign countries – in this instance with Japan – enabled law enforcement to coordinate and identify the subject. The FBI’s technical expertise was able to trace the money to the subject’s crypto wallet and seize those funds.”
All the Bitcoins that are worth $180 million, traceable to the theft, have been recovered and fully preserved, according to the press release.