A New type of Crime ‘Crypto Currency Crimes’

Written by Oliver J T Laurence – Director of OJT Investigations Group

The completion of a 14-week covert surveillance operation comes to a close for my team at OJT Investigations Group, exhausted from round the clock investigations, and relieved that we had resolved at multimillion dollar international extortion attempt, I sit brooding, that some 14-weeks prior, my knowledge of Bitcoin was minimal, little did I know I would become almost an expert by the conclusion of the operation.

Our Crisis Management Team at OJT Investigations Group were faced with a complex situation. Overnight we were requested to stand up surveillance and commence what would be one of the largest extortion investigations for some time in Australia in the private sector. And OJT Investigations Group was the leading Australian investigation company.

Personal information of our client had got into the wrong hands, and those ‘grubby’ hands had quickly identified the value behind the content, those thoughts had led our perpetrators to form a plan on how they would make a quick buck from it. All the time whilst remaining hidden behind the click of a mouse, the dark web and a commonly used App, WhatsApp to communicate their demands to our client.

We immediately advised our client not to pay the sum of 7.5 million USD which had been demanded in Bitcoin. We delayed these demands through the use of highly trained negotiators who formed part of our OJT Investigations Group Crisis Management Team. We were prepared for every eventuality and showed respect to a demander/s but did not bow to their every request.

We quickly got to work bringing our team together to manage this situation. We formed a team which spanned three continents, trained negotiators, banking experts, investigators and I.T experts to name just a few. This was an operation like no other, and needed nothing less than true professionals in their field of expertise. Proudly led by me, Oliver Laurence the Managing Director and Founder of OJT Investigations Group and my Asian Partners.

After only a week! we had positively identified our offender and began profiling this person to gather an understanding of who they were, and answering some of our most important early investigative questions; were they a sole operator? Or part of a larger beast of greedy opportunistic thieves, what was the motive behind their actions? And what did we need to do to stop them?

A surveillance team was stood up on round the clock observations, a feat in itself, with the potential of being identified or spotted very high. At the height of this investigation, we had four suspects under round the clock surveillance, their every move monitored and reported back….. a monumental effort, but one we were up to the task of.

Over the course of the 14 weeks, our Crisis Management Team at OJT Investigations Group had gathered enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that our offender was a sole operator, that they had left a trail of bread crumbs for us to follow and put together to ensure we were satisfied, that if we needed to, we could approach law enforcement and make a c criminal complaint.

This was no professional, quite the contrary, they were sloppy, they were brazened and they had no idea as to the ramifications of their actions should one be charged with such an offence of extortion in Queensland. However, for these very reasons we were concerned we were dealing with someone potentially who was very vulnerable and could disperse our client’s property at the click of a mouse to the world should we startle him or make him angry.

Failure was not an option, so as with any investigation our Crisis Management Team carry out we treated this person with respect non-the less and ensured that every action we carried out was risk managed and assessed.

Our team at OJT Investigations Group was amazed that someone with such little criminal profile and computing knowledge could carry out such a brazen crime as this…… From the overwhelming admissible evidence and intelligence that we had collated over the 14-week period, we were satisfied that a private intervention (approach) was a risk, but would work, and that once our subject was shown the overwhelming evidence against them they would fold very quickly to submission and hand back what was rightly not theirs to own.

Our Crisis Management Team at OJT Investigations Group spent three days planning this intervention, surrounded by legal experts and trained negotiators, we were equipped with the tools to make this happen and ensure success was the only outcome. I was asked by the client if I would execute this intervention for them, with the knowledge of the investigation and the trust we had built up, it was only right that I be the one to bear such a responsibility.

We had advised law enforcement of our intentions to manage this incident privately and that our risk assessment of the individual was such that we believed there was no risk to me or the OJT Investigations Group team going in to engage in dialog with our subject. They were satisfied and poised to act on any formal complaint that we might need to make should our intervention fail.

The planning was done, our game day had arrived, and was a huge success, not only had we recovered our client’s personal property, we had formally interviewed our subject, who made full and frank admissions and was, as we thought, extremely apologetic for his actions. Our interviews with the subject were at his request, he wanted to offload the pressures of the past 14-weeks.

A desperate young man, looking for a quick way to support his family, it was hard not to feel sorry for him, he had lived a troubled life, and was failing at every path he was taking to fulfil his life. This is no defence to an act of this kind, but as human beings we can certainly show empathy, and that we did. The sheer magnitude of the situation overwhelmed our subject who was clearly very remorseful and relieved that the ordeal and pressure of such demands was over.

In our post operation de briefs, our Crisis Management Team identified that although we had retrieved the client’s personal property, thwarted a 7.5-million-dollar extortion and met our objectives 110% in protecting the client’s identification, our subject needed to be supported, rehabilitated and shown that success in life was possible, he just needed some guidance and support. We set out on another mission, to clean this young man up, to get his mind on track and to get him in a routine which would make his life healthy again. Over the coming weeks, the team at OJT Investigations Group found this young man a job, got him in the gym and in a healthy frame of mind and feeling good about his future.

Not only was this young man very lucky not to be charged with a 14-year imprisonment offence, but he was truly grateful for the second chance in life, a chance we know deep down that he will grasp with both hands and run with.

At OJT Investigations Group our team of investigative professionals has seen the worst in people, and the best, foremost, we ensure that we achieve our client’s expectations, however, at the same time ensuring that we show a duty of care to all involved.

The evolution of the crypto currency has allowed criminal dreamers to attempt the crimes of a life time with the click of a mouse and the push of a send button on a WhatsApp application, if you find yourself in this position, with someone demanding money for the return of an item, I have 5 points of guidance in managing such a situation;

  1. Don’t ever pay the demand.
  2. Don’t panic, and try not to engage in communication, blackmailers will pull at the emotion and trauma they’ve placed you in hoping for a quick payment. Paying the demand amount could only trigger them to make another demand and so on above what they had originally asked for
  3. Call Me!!! At OJT Investigations Group we have the best team in the world to deal with this situation and a proven track record of success in large extortion matters.
  4. Don’t call because you’re embarrassed by your situation, at OJT Investigations Group, we will support you and your family throughout this ordeal. We will get through it together as a team and protect you from any threats. If there is a need to increase protection for you and your family, we will assess this as the operation progresses.
  5. Ensure everyone you do business with is properly vetted, those that come into your personal world can become jealous, don’t give them the keys to ‘your’ city.

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