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Canadians Get US Jail Time for Stealing 23 Bitcoin in Twitter Scam

The two scammers used a Twitter account to pose as crypto exchange staff to persuade an Oregon resident to hand over bitcoin.

Mar 18, 2020 at 10:31 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:20 a.m. UTC

Two Canadian nationals have been sentenced to two years in a U.S. jail for stealing bitcoin from an Oregon resident through a Twitter scam.

Karanjit Singh Khatkar and Jagroop Singh Khatkar, both from Surrey, British Columbia, were sentenced on March 17 to 24 months in federal prison with three years supervised release for conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering involving bitcoin (BTC).

According to a U.S. Department of Justice Attorney's Office press release Tuesday, a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation found the defendants sought to trick victims into thinking they were discussing customer service matters with representatives from Hong Kong-based crypto exchange HitBTC.

In October 2017, the defendants used a Twitter account with the handle @HitBTCAssist to pose as HitBTC staff to manipulate one victim into handing over 23.2 BTC (worth $118,000 at today's prices) from a HitBTC wallet to Karanjit Khatkar’s wallet on the Kraken exchange.

The Khatkars also convinced the Oregon resident to hand over information that could be used to compromise the victim's accounts including email as well as exchange account details.

Within days of the theft, the Khatkars split the bitcoin proceeds and proceeded to spend the liquidated cryptocurrency on a lavish lifestyle involving luxury cars and casinos.

On Dec. 16, 2019, the Khatkars pleaded guilty to the charges and were ordered to pay $142,349 in prepayment restitution during a change of plea hearing. A further $42,162 was awarded at sentencing, bringing the total figure to $184,511.

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