USA wants to refund $154mln in crypto stolen by Sony employee

USA has filed a lawsuit to recover more than $154 million stolen by an employee from Sony Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Sony. The funds have now been seized and are being held in FBI accounts.

According to court documents, in May 2021, Rei Ishii, a company employee, stole money during a transfer from one corporate account to another. Ishii changed the address of the transfer, which was made by Sony Life, to an account he owned at Silvergate Bank. Ishii later transferred the money into cryptocurrency (3,879 bitcoins at the exchange rate at the time) through the Coinbase exchange. Ishii even tried to get the company’s management not to go to the police by sending a ransom note to his superiors.

“If you agree to settle the case amicably, we will return the money. If you are going to prosecute, it will be impossible to get the money back,” Ishii wrote.

However, Sony Life did contact the police, and after an investigation involving the FBI, law enforcement seized the bitcoins from Ishii’s account and transferred them to the FBI bitcoin wallet. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested Ishii, 32, the same day and charged him with fraud and embezzlement.

“This case is an example of the amazing work of FBI agents and Japanese law enforcement. Criminals should take note: you can’t rely on cryptocurrency to hide your illegally obtained proceeds from the police,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.

Now the U.S. government has filed a civil lawsuit to recover the confiscated funds from Sony. The FBI, together with the Tokyo police, continues to investigate the crime.

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