The Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office released a statement this Monday saying that local police have arrested three men for cryptocurrency theft.
According to the prosecutor, the three men managed to steal around $5 million-worth of cryptocurrency.
Bulgarian police were able to recover $3 million in cryptocurrency data but said that $2 million was still missing. Authorities also seized a car owned by one of the men, worth $34,800, that had been purchased using the stolen funds.
In its statement, the Prosecutor’s Office said that the investigation, which was first launched back in June of this year, is the first of its kind in both Bulgaria and Europe.
The three people arrested appear to have been fairly sophisticated, with the prosecutor saying that they had exceptionally high “computer literacy skills,” which enabled them to steal the cryptocurrency.
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Apart from arresting the three men, police seized computers, hard drives, flash drives and a set of notebooks.
Cryptocurrency theft – a billion dollar industry
Those notebooks appear to indicate that the fraudsters were using a range of different accounts, with both real and fake users, to steal cryptocurrency.
Two of the three men were detained following their arrest. The other has had his bail set at BGN 50,000 ($29,000) but it is unclear as to whether or not that has been paid.
Thieves and fraudsters remain a major problem for the cryptocurrency industry. Cryptocurrency cybersecurity and intelligence firm CipherTrace estimates that close to $1 billion was stolen in the first nine months of 2018 alone.
Though regulators, particularly in the US, have clamped down on people operating unregulated cryptocurrency operations, very few people have been caught stealing cryptocurrencies.
Catching crooks is made harder by the anonymity that comes with trading in the cryptocurrency market. On top of that, CipherTrace estimates that 97 percent of cryptocurrency trading takes place on unregulated exchanges, meaning investors are more susceptible to scammers.