By Conor Maloney
The cybercrime division of the State Attorney’s office of Hebron, Israel indicted local resident Hilmi Git on Monday for allegedly using over 800 Israeli credit cards to carry out 20,000 fraudulent transactions and laundering the money using bitcoin.
The indictment, filed in the Tel Aviv district courts, alleges that the transactions they claim Git made amount to over $280,000 and that he laundered over $8 million over the course of ten years. The $8 million dollars was stored in the form of bitcoin, and the state seized at least 1,071 BTC — funds that will be confiscated pending conviction.
Git’s alleged operation spanned 10 years and many different forums and websites which the State Prosecutor claims he set up to launder money, facilitate credit card fraud through a wide network of criminals, instruct others how to remotely access computers to rob funds, and defraud unwitting visitors to his sites.
Through one scam he apparently pretended to sell cheap mobile phones but would block users from the website after receiving payment and cut off contact with them. He would then take over the user’s profile and post messages in their name seeming to confirm receipt of their goods, luring in more victims.
Even more serious was the credit card fraud operation through which Git allegedly offered free and premium memberships to clients buying access to credit cards from Git to commit fraud. The report also claims that he published guides on his site instructing users on how to hack and rob people online as well as offering tools enabling them to do so. Local media outlet Calcalist reports that Git’s indictment contained a quote from him saying:
“We are thieves. Anywhere we can take money, we’ll take it, whether it’s from Israel, the US, or even the moon.”
The state will file to continue holding Git in custody to prevent him from regaining control of his online crime empire, stating that internet access will “enable him to continue carrying out the criminal enterprise he established over the past decade,” saying Git will “not hesitate to commit fraudulent offenses against innocent victims.”
The wallet seizure marks the first time in Israeli history that bitcoin funds have been seized by police, and upon conviction a legal precedent may be set for the state confiscation of cryptocurrency assets.
Other countries have already handled illicit bitcoins in the same way, with the US government seizing 512 BTC and 512 BCH in January from a drug dealer on the dark web and auctioning off the currency and other assets. A similar incident took place in Finland in February where 2000 bitcoins were seized from an alleged drug dealer.