An employee embezzled $154 million from Sony then converted it to bitcoin — now the feds are trying to return it

An employee embezzled $154 million from Sony then converted it to bitcoin — now the feds are trying to return it
  • An employee stole $154 million from Sony Life Insurance Company in Tokyo in May.
  • The employee then converted the funds to bitcoin, now worth more than $180 million.
  • Law enforcement has since seized the bitcoin and is working to return funds to Sony.
  • The US Justice Department is trying to return more than $150 million that was embezzled from a Sony subsidiary and converted into bitcoin.

    In May, a worker at Sony Life Insurance Company in Tokyo allegedly diverted $154 million to a personal account at a Southern California bank when the company was instead trying to transfer the funds between financial accounts, according to a Monday press release from the US Justice Department.

    The worker, identified as Rei Ishii, then converted the money to bitcoin, the release said.

    Law enforcement from the US and Japan eventually found the "private key," or password, to the bitcoin address that held the 3,879 bitcoin tokens — now worth more than $180 million — and seized the funds on December 1.

    As of Monday, the US had filed a civil forfeiture complaint in the Southern District of California to protect Sony's interest in the stolen property.

    "Criminals should take note: You cannot rely on cyptocurrency to hide your ill-gotten gains from law enforcement," Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in the statement.

    The Justice Department said it received "significant assistance" from Sony and Citibank and investigated the matter alongside multiple Japanese agencies, which enabled the US to uncover the crime.

    The US Justice Department has been chasing other crypto crimes as well. Last month, the agency announced it would sell seized in the BitConnect scheme, in which promoters swindled thousands of people out of about $2 billion worth of bitcoin in 2017.

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