In recent times, quite often we have come across headlines mentioning scammers who have used fraudulent Twitter accounts that impersonate major crypto firms to launder Bitcoins and other crypto assets.
On August 22, yet again, two Canadians of Indian origin have been charged in the United States with allegations of bitcoin fraud using Twitter. According to charges filed by a federal court, the two individuals namely Karanjit Singh Khatkar, 23, and Jagroop Singh Khatkar, 24, residents of Surrey, BC, reportedly stole 23.2 BTC valued at $233,220 from a woman in the state of Oregon. Karanjit Khatkar got himself arrested while he tried to fly into Las Vegas, while Jagroop Khatkar was still at large, likely in Canada, the department said.
As the report suggests, Karanjit and Jagroop mislead an Oregon woman in her 60s by posing as customer service agents of HitBTC, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange, and thus her account’s login credentials were “stolen.” Initially, 23.2 bitcoins were transferred from target’s HitBTC account to Karanjit’s wallet at a separate crypto exchange, Kraken. Afterward, Karanjit transferred half that amount to Jagroop’s Kraken wallet. Karanjit was arrested at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, on July 18, following a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was detained ahead of a trial scheduled for October 8.
Last Thursday, a judge denied release for Karanjt stating he was concerned that the alleged might flee to Canada to fight extradition. Assistant U.S. Attorney, Quinn Harrington, cited to the court a couple of phone calls from jail placed by Karanjit to his brother, urging him to stay out of the U.S. to avoid arrest in the alleged scam.
According to the government report, in one of the calls, Karanjit told his brother,
I have spent hours and days doing my research. I know it’s not going to be as bad if you don’t come right now. If they present you with a summon, come, of course.
The Khatkar brothers have been accused of aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering. Karanjit used to work as an associate design engineering specialist for Fluor Corp. in Canada, but lost his job about a month following his arrest, according to court records.
Now, if Jagroop voluntarily appears in the court of the U.S. then prosecutors would be open to his brother’s pretrial release. On the flipside, Karanjit’s defense lawyer, Justin Rusk, has urged the court not to penalize his client since his brother hasn’t yet turned himself in to the authorities. Rusk has also brought to the court’s notice that his client has no prior criminal history and shall be allowed to stay with his uncle in Sacramento pending his trial till January.
Karanjit has also been willing to pay for a $50,000 surety bond to secure his release pending trial. He can’t legally cross the border into Canada as he has already surrendered his travel documents, however, unless “by foot through the woods,” Rusk said.