Queensland police arrests five over $2.7M cryptocurrency scam

Queensland’s Financial and Cyber Crime Group, State Crime Command, has charged three men and two women following a cold call cryptocurrency investment fraud investigation.

Dubbed Operation Quebec Walnut, detectives probed an alleged criminal syndicate which ultimately scammed over 100 Australian-based victims for more than $2.7 million.

The scam operated a “number of businesses” selling cryptocurrency investments for a “significant profit” between 2017 and May 2019. 

“When victims attempted to withdraw their capital, they could not,” commented Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence of the State Crime Command’s Financial and Cyber Crime Group.

“Their money had gone and any attempt they made to contact one of the companies or their staff was unsuccessful.

“While these arrests are significant and a step forward in a complex and protracted investigation, we are continuing to conduct enquiries.”

Victims were contacted and offered an initial trial investment in Exmount Holdings Group, with the promise of “generous returns” once they had invested more funds. 

The criminal group allocated unique log-in details for the website where victims could observe their initial investment grow over the trial period.

Queensland police said the group had a “legitimate appearing company” with a website, call centre and sales staff all consisting .

Other companies and websites attached to this scam included “Exmount Holdings Ltd”, “The Quid Pro Quo Foundation”, “The Atlas Group”, “AFG Associates Pty Ltd”, “tradex123”, “exmounttrading”, “atlasfxgroup” and “amazonqus”.

Three men aged 56, 44 and 33 years and two women aged 28 and 21 years from the Gold Coast were charged with fraud and money laundering. The group were also alleged to have been participants in a criminal organisation.

Crypto awareness

Chief strategy officer at OpenPayd, Stephen Quinn spoke to Payment Expert about how important it is to keep mindful of crypto-based scams, particularly as much of the sector remains unregulated.

He said: “Such is the rise in coverage and interest of cryptocurrencies, investors – especially new entrants – are susceptible to a variety of scams, not dissimilar to the “boiler rooms” we are very familiar with.”

Quinn, who will feature on a panel revolved around cryptocurrencies at the Payment Expert Forum in September, continued to highlight key signs of a possible scam.

“Avoid hype and claims of cheap access to currency; guaranteed returns and offers of coins for free. Always deal with a reputable exchange in a recognised jurisdiction.

“Research carefully, with the multitude of resource available today, before sharing any personal information or transferring any funds – fear of missing out, could easily lead to massively losing out…”