Two Estonian nationals, Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, both 39, facing multiple criminal charges related to their alleged roles in a massive cryptocurrency fraud made their first appearance in court yesterday, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Potapenko and Turõgin were arrested in Tallinn, Estonia in November 2022, following an 18-count indictment by the Western District of Washington. The indictment alleges that from 2015 to 2019, the defendants operated a fraudulent cryptocurrency mining service, HashFlare.

Through the business, the pair allegedly lured hundreds of thousands of victims to purchase contracts worth over $550 million. These contracts allegedly promised customers shares of virtual currency mined by HashFlare's supposed extensive mining operations.


However, the DOJ claims that HashFlare had minimal mining capacity and engaged in less than 1% of the Bitcoin mining it advertised. When investors tried withdraw their purported mining profits, Potapenko and Turõgin either resisted payments or used virtual currency bought on the open market, rather than mined as promised.

In another scheme in May 2017, Potapenko and Turõgin raised at least $25 million through investments in Polybius, a company they claimed would form a virtual currency bank. Despite promises of dividends from Polybius' profits, the bank was never established, and most funds were allegedly diverted to accounts controlled by the defendants.

The DOJ also alleges that the defendants laundered the proceeds through shell companies, phony contracts, and invoices, using the funds to acquire 75 real estate properties, six luxury vehicles, cryptocurrency wallets, and thousands of cryptocurrency mining machines.

The charges against Potapenko and Turõgin include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Edited by Stacy Elliott.


Editor’s note: This article was written with the assistance of AI. Edited and fact-checked by Stacy Elliott.

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