New York City resident Vitalii Antonenko was charged for allegedly participating in a $94 million Bitcoins-for-cards scheme, according to a May 27 statement from the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts. He is now facing up to 20 years in jail and $500,000 in fines.
Antonenko was arrested in March 2019 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after he arrived there from Ukraine carrying devices “that held hundreds of thousands of stolen payment card numbers”.
According to the prosecution, the suspect and his co-conspirators used SQL injection attacks to extract payment card data from vulnerable networks, and then sold it on “online criminal marketplaces”, likely referring to the darknet.
In June 2019, the defence requested a psychiatric evaluation of their client after he started showing signs of instability and claimed he was secretly working for the CIA.
The police reportedly caught up with Antonenko after looking into two Bitcoin (BTC) wallets that were used in transactions totaling $94 million, with at least $140,000 worth of that sum being eventually transferred to the suspect’s private wallet address. Starting in 2014, Antonenko would regularly exchange Bitcoins he received from those wallets to fiat via an unidentified person, the complaint reads.
As stated by Senior Special Agent Peter Gannon, Antonenko was selling Bitcoins below the market price, which led him to suspect that the NYC resident was laundering his money.
U.S. authorities have actively been looking into darknet markets-related crypto transactions. Earlier this month, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network awarded several federal agencies for seizing $22 million worth of cryptocurrency from the darkenet operators.