Crypto Hackers Jailed Over $7.7 m Theft


Two individuals engaged in the theft of nearly $7.7 million from Bitcoin wallets worldwide, targeting at least 55 victims. Jake Lee, 38, hailing from Bath, and James Heppel, 42, from Wiltshire, admitted guilt to three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and received sentences of four years and 15 months, respectively.

The criminal activity was uncovered in 2018 during an investigation by the southwest Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU), revealing the duo's method of hacking into Bitcoin wallets by manipulating the domain of the cryptocurrency exchange.

To date, authorities have identified 55 victims across 26 countries, estimating the total losses from the scam to be approximately $7.7 million. Despite law enforcement efforts, only $1,046,694 has been recovered, with Lee voluntarily surrendering $690,693 in cash. Additionally, authorities seized a $75,212 Banksy artwork and three vehicles.

Detective Sergeant Matt Brain from SWROCU’s regional cybercrime unit stated, "Our probe commenced in 2018 following Lee's arrest on suspicion of money laundering by Avon and Somerset Police. Alongside $30,085 in cash, digital devices and three laminated Bitcoin wallet recovery seeds were seized."

He continued, "Simultaneously, our unit investigated a cryptocurrency scam reported by a victim in Wiltshire who suffered a loss of $13,789 in Bitcoin from their Blockchain wallet. Our examination of Lee's devices revealed his significant involvement in an elaborate domain spoofing scheme, aiding in the identification of multiple victims."

"The meticulous mapping of Lee and Heppel's criminal activities, as well as their connections to other suspects and cryptocurrency exchanges globally, presented complex challenges. However, their full admission of guilt streamlined proceedings, sparing the need for a lengthy trial and underscoring the robustness of the evidence gathered against them," Brain added.

Furthermore, an additional confiscation order has been issued against Lee with the aim of providing restitution to some of the victims. Pamela Jain, a specialist prosecutor with the Serious Economic Organised Crime International Directorate of the Crown Prosecution Service, commented, "This prosecution was intricate and time-intensive, involving coordination with numerous victims and law enforcement agencies worldwide."

She added, "Significant sums of money and assets have been seized. In addition to his prison term, Jake Lee has been ordered by the court to pay over $1 million through a confiscation order, facilitating compensation for the victims. Confiscation proceedings against James Heppel are ongoing."

Jain emphasized, "Compensation orders compel criminals to relinquish available funds and assets or face extended prison sentences."

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Delriene Smith

DBM Founding Coach