After months of investigation, USDT stablecoin maker Tether has announced the confiscation of $225 million of its tokens involved in a pig butchering romance scam.
The announcement, conveyed through a press release, detailed Tether’s collaboration with the OKX crypto exchange and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in executing the investigation.
The frozen funds represent the largest-ever USDT tokens confiscation in the fledgling Web3 ecosystem.
According to Tether, the seized funds were connected to an international human trafficking and pig butchering romance syndicate.
To aid in its investigation, the USDT issuer utilized blockchain tracking tools provided by the renowned Chainalysis platform. This technology enabled them to trace the flow of illicitly obtained funds through the blockchain, putting an immediate stop to their further use.
The illicit funds were stored in self-custodial crypto wallets, necessitating a month-long investigation and significant resources to locate them.
The privately run blockchain service provider stated that the frozen cryptocurrency wallets are currently on the secondary market, and the wallets did not belong to its customers.
On-chain data from the Etherscan platform showed that the funds were seized across 37 different crypto wallets, with the vast majority of these digital tokens transferred to the OKX exchange.
Tether froze ~225M $USDT (37 wallets) linked to a human trafficking group 1 hour ago.
— Lookonchain (@lookonchain) November 20, 2023
Meanwhile, during the entire operation, a number of legitimate cryptocurrency wallets were captured in the line of fire.
Tether revealed that it is working hand-in-hand with relevant government agencies to unfreeze the affected users’ crypto wallets.
Speaking on the milestone event, Tether’s CEO Paolo Ardoino said that the voluntary freeze is a clear sign that the fiat-backed stablecoin issuer is working hard to send the right signal regarding user safety in the crypto space.
Pig Butchering Scam Cost US Investors $3.3 Billion
A pig butchering romance scam is a sophisticated fraudulent activity that combines the attributes of a romantic scam with an investment spin.
The system basically lures ignorant investors in with the idea of romance, and then the perpetrators try to sell bogus investment opportunities with illusionary high yields to the victims.
The victims are often instructed to purchase crypto assets from exchanges and then transfer them to a crypto wallet for the investment platform controlled by the scammer.
The fraudulent activity has since drawn the attention of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which stated that pig butchering is a time-tested, heavily scripted, and contact-intensive process that fattens up the prey before slaughter.
The new scam called “pig butchering”-includes a sophisticated new twist that combines a romance scam with an investment spin.According to the @FBI,the term “pig butchering”refers to a time-tested,heavily scripted, & contact intensive process to fatten up the prey before slaughter pic.twitter.com/Umh6UGQvm3
— Adrian Pereira #ViralisingSolidarity (@liberationxxx) January 15, 2023
The government agency revealed in an Internet Crime Report in 2022 that the pig butchering romance scam has illicitly obtained more than $3.31 billion from US investors.
Making a year-by-year comparison, the FBI noted that this figure witnessed a staggering increase of more than 127%, rising from $1.45 billion in 2021.
Delving deeper into the statistics, the FBI report showed that crypto-based fraud within this elaborate scam ecosystem surged from $907 million in 2021 to $2.57 billion in 2022, representing an increase of 183% within a single calendar year.
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