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Latvian brought to US to face $7m crypto-fraud charges

A man has been extradited from Latvia to the US to stand trial for allegedly using fraudulent cryptocurrency offers to cheat investors out of millions of dollars, the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced.

Ivars Auzins, 29, was brought from the Latvian capital Riga to face a federal court in New York, where he was charged with wire and securities fraud in connection with eight companies that claimed to offer legitimate cryptocurrency investment opportunities.

Auzins allegedly used online aliases to disguise his true identity, employing email campaigns, social media platforms, and cryptocurrency websites to steal $7 million from would-be investors and funnel it through a front company known as “the Auzins Entities” between 2017 and 2019.

Auzins and his accomplices allegedly did this “through a series of material misrepresentations and omissions about the products and services that the Auzins Entities claimed to provide [and] the profits that investors would earn by investing.”

The DoJ added: “Shortly after receiving these investments, the Auzins Entities disappeared without providing their promised services.”

The Auzins Entities consisted of fake companies such as Bitroad and Denaro that lured victims with bogus initial coin offerings, and Impressio and Bankroi that pretended to be cryptocurrency investment platforms, the DoJ alleges.

“Auzins perpetrated a brazen scheme in which he fleeced investors who funneled millions of dollars into fraudulent cryptocurrency,” said US Attorney Breon Peace, who cooperated with the FBI to have Auzins extradited.

She added: “This office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who lie and steal from investors, including those like the defendant who operate from abroad.”

The statement appears to mirror increasing efforts by US authorities to tackle the growing and global issue of cybercrime against its citizens and business interests, although one analyst interviewed recently by Cybernews has suggested such arrests will accomplish little unless they are targeted at ringleaders and specific individuals who make cybercriminal enterprises financially viable.

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