A former employee of crypto exchange Cryptopia, which is in the process of liquidation, has confessed he stole $172,000 worth of cryptocurrencies, New Zealand publication Stuff has reported.
According to the prosecutor's office, while working at the exchange, the employee copied the private keys of several wallets onto a USB drive, which he then took home to transfer to his personal computer. According to reports, these keys gave him access to more than $100 million in various cryptocurrencies. After ending his contract with the exchange, he kept the information he had copied.
On September 3 2020, David Ruscoe of Grant Thornton, an audit firm appointed to manage the exchange's assets, received an e-mail from one of Cryptopia's former clients who said he had accidentally made a deposit at a previous address and requested the Bitcoins back.
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While investigating the wallets, Grant Thornton discovered 13 Bitcoins had been illegally seized from various wallets in a series of transactions. Subsequently, two Bitcoins were transferred to the address of a mixing service. On September 10, Ruscoe received a letter from a former Cryptopia employee who, upon learning of Grant Thornton's discovery, confessed he had stolen the Bitcoins. He stated he had returned part of the stolen assets and promised to pay the full amount in due course. The next day, he announced the transfer of six Bitcoins and sought assurances he would not be prosecuted if he returned the full amount. That same day, he confirmed he had "returned everything".
Later, while testifying before the police, he admitted he copied the keys, deleted them from Cryptopia's vault, stole the cryptocurrencies and transferred them to a mixing service. The police said:
"The defendant admitted that he was frustrated with Cryptopia but also motivated by the belief that he could get away with the theft as he thought nobody would ever check the old deposit wallets."