The United States Department of Justice has announced the filing of a civil forfeiture complaint to retrieve over $150 million of embezzled funds in Bitcoin. The FBI tracked down the funds during a robbery investigation involving Sony.
“The United States took action in a federal court today to protect and ultimately return more than $154 million in funds that were allegedly stolen from a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Group Corporation and then seized by law enforcement during the FBI’s investigation of the theft,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
An employee of Sony allegedly embezzled these funds in May 2021, converting them to over 3,800 Bitcoin (now worth over $180 million).
“Those funds were seized by law enforcement on December 1, 2021, based on the FBI’s investigation,” the Justice Department added.
That Sony employee has been named by the Justice Department as Rei Ishii. Ishii was an employee of Sony Life Insurance Company Ltd, a Sony Group subsidiary.
Sony’s stolen funds turned to Bitcoin
According to the Justice Department, Ishii allegedly diverted the $154 million when the company attempted to transfer these funds between their own financial accounts.
The Justice Department claims that Ishii falsified transactions, causing the funds to be diverted from a company-controlled account to one that Ishii controlled at a bank in California. Then, Ishii allegedly converted the funds to Bitcoin. The civil forfeiture complaint was also filed in California to protect Sony’s funds.
The FBI’s investigation gained “significant assistance” from other law enforcement entities, including the National Police Agency of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and the Japan Prosecutors Unit on Emerging Crimes.
Sony and Citibank also aided in the investigation. Both firms “immediately contacted and cooperated with law enforcement as soon as the theft was detected,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.
“It is our intent to return the stolen money to the victim of this audacious theft, and today’s action helps us do that,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.
“You cannot rely on cryptocurrency to hide your ill-gotten gains from law enforcement. The United States coordinates extensively with its international partners to forestall crime and retrieve stolen funds,” Grossman added.