Feds charge Chicago trader in first ever crypto-fraud case

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

After allegedly siphoning $2 million in Bitcoin and Litecoin from his Chicago employer, a 24-year-old trader who thinks himself “invincible” has become the first target of a criminal fraud prosecution involving “cryptocurrency.”

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According to an abc7 report and federal investators, 2016 University of Chicago graduate Joseph Kim is charged with fraud against Consolidated Trading LLC.

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On Friday, Kim made his initial court appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel G. Martin at the Dirksen Federal Building. Kim is charged with one count of wire fraud and did not enter a plea. Judge Marting asked the defendant if he spoke English and understood the proceedings, which he did.

Kim surrendered his passport as a part of his $100,000 bond deal, and his travel is now limited between northern Illinois and Arizona. The bond conditions also include a restriction that Kim cannot engage in any trading of securities, commodities or cryptocurrency on behalf of third parties. And any funds traded most solely belong to Kim, according to abc7.

Kim is additionally restricted from communicating with his former co-workers at Consolidating Trading. The federal complaint claims Kim illegally transferred the firm’s cryptocurrency to his own personal accounts to cover trading losses. Prosecutors claimed he then lied about the transfers and attempted to cover up the illegal trades by repaying some of the funds.

According to a federal complaint, Kim referred to himself as “DEGEN” – short for “degenerative gambler.”

Last November, in an email to his bosses – Kim allegedly admitted to the scheme, “It was not my intention to steal for myself” he is quoted as writing. “Until the end, I was perversely trying to fix what I had already done.”

According to prosecutors, he then added, “I can’t believe I did not stop myself when I had the money to give back, and I will live with that for the rest of my life.”

Kim was hired as a trader in July of 2016. Last November in the last email to the firm’s top executives, authorities say Kim apologized and said he was “sorry to betray you all like this.”

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Prosecutors are expected to outline the charge: “from September through November 2017, Kim transferred more than $2 million of the trading firm’s Bitcoin and Litecoin to personal accounts to cover his own trading losses, which had been incurred while trading cryptocurrency futures on foreign exchanges.”

Consolidated’s management team discovered the misappropriation, according to federal agents.

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