Venezuelan authorities are on the lookout for a scammer accused of disappearing with 23.66 Bitcoin (BTC) worth $1.15 million from his clients’ accounts after faking his own kidnapping.
On Sunday, Douglas Rico, director of Venezuela’s Scientific, Criminal and Criminal Investigations Corps, issued a statement asserting that 23-year-old Andrés Jesús Dos Santos Hernández was wanted by the country’s largest national police agency over charges of suspected money laundering and fraud.
Authorities assert that Hernández likely staged the abduction, with his clients’ Binance accounts having been emptied since the Venezuelan’s supposed disappearance. According to Rico, the police believe Hernández “simulat[ed] a kidnapping where his captors allegedly forced him to enter the Binance platform and make transfers to different digital wallets, depleting all the crypto assets in question.”
The suspect is believed to have posed as a financial advisor before soliciting Bitcoin from several local investors, with authorities alleging that Hernández amassed 23.66 BTC in total.
Related: Turkish prosecutors investigate alleged $119M Dogecoin mining scam
Venezuela has long been a global hotspot for Bitcoin adoption, with local citizens turning to crypto assets to combat chronic hyperinflation that has besieged the country over the past decade.
For Venezuelans, cryptocurrencies offer a means to a store of value and access to international markets, as well as a vehicle to convert into United States dollars.
While the Venezuelan government has sought to capture the local digital asset market by mandating the use of its oil-backed cryptocurrency, the Petro, there has been little evidence of the currency achieving widespread adoption among local citizens since its launch.