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US Woman Loses $750,000 In Crypto Scam

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An Omaha woman has lost over $730,000 after she fell for a cryptocurrency scam. A document filed with the  on March 1 identifies the woman only as M.M. who is said to have been defrauded by a man who called himself Stefan Lang whom she met through an online dating platform in 2021.  

Lang told the woman that he was into investing and cryptocurrency and convinced her to invest her savings in crypto. M.M. said Lang told her to convert her money into Bitcoin and send it to a Bitcoin miner identified in the court filings as Michael Girard. She sent a total of $732,937.10 worth of Bitcoin between June and August 2021. 

When the woman decided that it was time to cash out her Bitcoin wallets, Girard told her before she could withdraw her money, she would have to pay a hefty 18% “clearance fee”, which came to roughly $132,000. 

She sent the clearance fee in three different installments but she still couldn’t receive her money as she was told that the fee needed to be paid in one transaction. She discovered that the crypto investments she had made were not real. All her savings had gone into the scammer’s pockets. 

That is when M.M. reported the matter to local law enforcement agencies in Omaha, which then notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The investigation by the FBI revealed that a total of nine accounts were used to wire the funds in a money laundering scheme against the woman. The Bitcoin accounts belonged to Binance Holdings, a company in the Cayman Islands. 

It is not clear whether the addresses belonged to the largest crypto exchange in the world Binance led by the outspoken CEO Changpeng Zhao, popularly referred to as CZ, which is also domiciled in the Cayman Islands. Or whether it is a money laundering company that has used the same name to defraud unsuspecting victims. 

The FBI took hold of the cryptocurrency funds in February 2022 via an international warrant, which are currently in its custody. Civil court documents filed on Wednesday want the money turned over to the United States which the federal government says is the country the Omaha woman was scammed out of. The case has been assigned to a federal judge.

M.M. Is Not Alone

The Omaha woman is just one among the many investors who have fallen prey to the ever-changing tactics of crypto scammers. In the same year, a Tennessee woman said she lost $390,000 belonging to herself and her father after she fell for another online crypto dating scam.

After the 24-year-old Nicole Hutchinson inherited $280,000 from her mother, she met a man named “Hao” through an online dating website “Hinge.” Hao convinced her to invest her inheritance in crypto. Under Hao’s directions, she created an account on a legitimate site, Then he later sent her a link to transfer money to, what he said was a cryptocurrency exchange platform.  

When Hutchinson’s account began showing profits, she suggested to her father that he should invest too and so he did. Just like M.M., they were asked to pay a large “tax bill” of $380,000 before they could access their account which showed a combined balance of $1.2 million. 

A 2021 report found that victims of cryptocurrency scams lost more than $7.7 billion that year. The funds most probably go to an organized ring of scammers who prey on inexperienced victims. 

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