A court in Tongliang, China – located near Chongqing – has sentenced 21 people for their role in transferring the proceeds of online fraud and illegal casinos denominated in Tether (USDT) to Chinese Yuan (RMB), totaling 2.25 billion RMB ($307 million).
According to a bulletin from the court, two defendants, with the surnames Jiang and Zheng, worked to recruit 19 other money mules. The group, according to court documents, used a decentralized wallet called Bitpie (similar to Metamask) to move the USDT to local P2P exchanges on virtual currency platforms to convert it to Reminbi.
They then withdrew the fiat currency in different cities around the country using false pretenses like project payments and workers’ wages when asked for a reason for the transfer. Court documents say that Jiang profited 22.62 million RMB ($3 million) for his efforts.
The court found the group guilty of disguising and concealing criminal proceeds, sentencing them to various prison terms and imposing fines, with Jiang getting six years, three months, and a 500,000 RMB fine. In comparison, Zheng was also fined the exact amount and was sentenced to 6 years.
Although the court document isn’t specific about where this USDT came from, it’s a popular digital asset used by fraud rings operating in Southeast Asia. In his new book, Number Go Up, Bloomberg journalist Zeke Faux documents how these gangs are effectively powered by Tether.
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