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Miami man pleads guilty in crypto scheme that used stolen personal information

The leader of a crew that scammed banks into refunding millions of dollars spent on cryptocurrency pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud and agreed to pay back the money.

Esteban Cabrera da Corte, a 26-year-old Miami man, “orchestrated a scheme to steal millions of dollars by buying cryptocurrency using false and stolen identities and then deceiving U.S. banks regarding those transactions,” according to the Department of Justice.

The fraudsters would use “fake U.S. passports, fake drivers’ licenses, and stolen personal identifying information” to set up accounts on an unnamed cryptocurrency exchange and connect them to bank accounts, prosecutors said. The crew would then buy cryptocurrency on the exchange and quickly transfer it to unrelated wallets.

The final piece of the scam involved calling the banks to say that the cryptocurrency transactions were unauthorized, prosecutors said. The banks would reverse the charges, meaning the crew got to keep the digital coins and the bank refunds.

“The operation of this scheme by the Defendants resulted in U.S. banks processing more than $4 million in fraudulent reversals and the Cryptocurrency Exchange losing more than $3.5 million worth of cryptocurrency,” the department said.

Cabrera da Corta and the others would move the cash via wire transfers, cashier’s checks and ATM withdrawals, court documents said.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations’ Miami-based El Dorado Task Force, a long-running interagency group that fights money laundering.

Cabrera da Corta entered his plea in a New York federal court. He was first charged in August 2022 along with two of the alleged co-conspirators. The scam lasted from 2020 until at least March 2022, according to court documents.

He agreed to pay restitution of more than $3.5 million and forfeit $1.2 million, the DOJ said. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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Joe Warminsky

Joe Warminsky

is the news editor for Recorded Future News. He has more than 25 years experience as an editor and writer in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently he helped lead CyberScoop for more than five years. Prior to that, he was a digital editor at WAMU 88.5, the NPR affiliate in Washington, and he spent more than a decade editing coverage of Congress for CQ Roll Call.