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Venezuelan Crime Gang Was ‘Stealing Crypto from Retirees’

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A Venezuelan police agency says it has caught criminals who have allegedly stolen cryptoassets from pensioners by misusing the Patria crypto remittance platform.

Per an Instagram post from Douglas Rico, the Director of the Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigation Service Corps (known locally as the CICPC), the agency has arrested “members of a criminal gang” he claimed had been operating in Maturín, a city in the state of Monagas. Rico wrote that the police had arrested three individuals – a man and a woman in their mid-30s and a man in his 20s.

The police claimed that the group was calling itself the “Hackers from the East” and was targeting retirees, with a view to stealing their cryptoassets. The government-run Patria platform allows Venezuelans based overseas to send tokens to relatives and friends back home. The state also uses the platform to distribute benefits to individuals – such as pensioners – using its petro (PTR) cryptoasset.

Rico stated that the case has now been sent to the judiciary, and published mugshots of the trio, in addition to four cellphones and a computer that he said the police had seized.

The CICPC chief said that the agency had found evidence that the gang had “managed to obtain” login details from the victims they allegedly preyed upon. They also appear to have created Patria accounts in the name of individuals who had deceased – and attempted to trick the state into paying out pensions to them.

Once on the Patria platform, the police said the gang proceeded to transfer the pensioners’ cryptoasset holdings into wallets that had been opened at a range of “different financial entities.” The police said that the gang also used “fake documents” and successfully “usurped the identity of deceased people.”

After getting their hands on the tokens, the gang members allegedly swapped their coins for fiat bolívars. This fiat was then “transferred to the gang’s personal accounts in order to obtain a profit,” Rico concluded.

Both the CICPC and SUNACRIP, the national crypto regulator, have warned about the danger of fraudsters who pose as “managers” that help pensioners who need to make use of the Patria platform.

Such individuals, officers warned, “offer to take care of the whole process” of withdrawing PTR payouts and converting the tokens to cash – but in fact, hope to gain the data they need to steal assets from vulnerable pensioners.
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