Home » Northeast Ohio man falls victim to $1.3 million cryptocurrency scam, FBI says

Northeast Ohio man falls victim to $1.3 million cryptocurrency scam, FBI says

Northeast Ohio man falls victim to $1.3 million cryptocurrency scam, FBI says

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Northeast Ohio man lost $1.3 million in a cryptocurrency scam after he used an app that looked nearly identical to a real one.

Scammers made the 68-year-old man from Holmesville believe his cryptocurrency investment ballooned to $15 million. When he tried to pull his money out, the group refused, according to court records.

FBI agents arrested a man last month on suspicion of being a courier for the scammers. Lin Kai of New York is accused of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Amanda Knapp ordered Kai released on a $20,000 unsecured bond and bound over his case to a federal grand jury to decide how it will proceed. A message left for Lai’s attorney, Jeffrey Lazarus, was not returned.

The 68-year-old man from Holmes County told investigators that the scam began in late August or early September, when someone with the screen name Caitronia Lee sent him several Facebook messages about the man’s interest in hunting.

The two struck up a chat about the man’s desire to hunt wild animals in Africa. Lee said she had an investment opportunity that would allow him to do so, according to court records.

She directed him to download a cryptocurrency app that at first blush appeared to be the legitimate crypto.com app. The app displayed the name Indoda-x, a name similar to the real Indonesia-based company Indodax.

A person pretending to be the app’s service director told him to drop off cash to a courier who would upload it to a cryptocurrency account. The man made his first transaction on Sept. 27 by handing $100,000 to a courier in the parking lot of a Lowe’s hardware store in Mount Vernon, according to court filings.

That happened three more times, with the man dropping off as much as $400,000 in each transaction through Dec. 7.

On Dec. 8, he checked his account on the scammer’s app and saw his investment ballooned to $15.1 million.

The man tried to withdraw the cash, but the service director he spoke with kept giving excuses why he wasn’t allowed to withdraw the money, according to court records. The service director eventually told the man he could withdraw his money if he added $2.4 million more to the account.

The man realized he was the victim of a scam and reported it to the Holmes County sheriff’s office.

The FBI began investigating and told the man to set up a drop-off of $1.5 million. Agents watched as Lin drove up to the man in the Lowe’s parking lot and took the bag of cash.

Agents arrested Kai, who told them he didn’t know whom he worked for and made about $2,000 for each pick-up he made.

He told agents that someone would mail him an iPhone and two sim cards, along with directions to where to pick up cash. Kai said he was instructed to destroy the sim card after the pick up and replace it with a new one.

He was then supposed to drive around for 30 minutes to an hour, before he called someone else to arrange for them to pick up the cash.

Adam Ferrise covers federal courts at cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. You can find his work here.

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