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Oxford Student Goes to Prison for Stealing $2.6M Via a Crypto Scam

The Dutchman will serve four and a half years in prison for cheating investors out of more than $2.6 million.

Wybo Wiersma, a 40-year-old Dutchman who attended Oxford’s St Cross College, was sentenced to 54 months in jail for stealing £2,156,000 (more than $2.6 million) through a cryptocurrency scam.

Detectives in the United Kingdom traced the fraud to a guy who used the alias Norbert van den Berg in his malicious website and academic homework.

Wiersma was sentenced to four and a half years in jail by Judge Michael Gledhill KC. When the perpetrator was a student at St Cross College’s Internet Institute, he began his bitcoin scam.

He created a website under a fictitious identity, which generated “seeds” (passwords that users believed were not compromised). They were required in order to utilize MIOTA, a cryptocurrency with a market value of more than $620 million.

However, a malicious code was linked to the “seeds,” allowing Wiersma access to the assets of the customers. He began stealing money and transferring it into his accounts. In January 2018, the thief used Bitfinex to convert the stolen MIOTA hoard into Monero (XMR).

The site detected his suspicious activity and locked his accounts, asking identification. Wiersma gave two false passports, one of a Belgian resident and the other of an Australian named “Jason.”

Bitfinex refused to authorize such papers, prompting the Dutchman to seek the assistance of Binance. The world’s top cryptocurrency exchange swiftly discovered his plans and blocked his access to the accounts.

In 2018, a number of distressed investors reported their lost assets to German police. The latter worked with their British counterparts to initiate an inquiry, which finally led them to Wiersma’s house in Oxford.

The UK authorities stormed the location, discovered his desktop computer open, and monitored his actions over the last three years. When asked about the website, he remained silent and returned short to the Netherlands.

Nonetheless, police worked on the case and discovered that he used the alias Norbert van den Berg on the seed-generating website and his university assignments. They also linked the alias to a bitcoin transaction.

In the Netherlands, he was apprehended on Christmas Eve 2020 and sentenced nearly two years later. “You are an expert in IT and computer sciences,” Judge Gledhill said as he announced the sentencing. The truth is that you choose to exploit your abilities in order to steal. This is the height of dishonesty. What motivated you to do these crimes? Greed and dishonesty are two words that spring to mind immediately.”

Such fraud has been increasingly popular in the United Kingdom in recent years, and the market fall in 2022 did not put an end to the actions of criminal actors. In fact, between October 2021 and September 2022, the number of crypto frauds tripled.

NatWest’s retail banking CEO, David Lindberg, has previously warned investors that the UK is a “paradise” for fraudsters. He asked the British government, police, banks, and social media companies to work together to address the problem:

“Fraud and scams are a business. They’re educated and quick, and it’s horrible to witness how they try to end people’s lives.”

 

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