Trio of crooks busted in $1.8M cryptocurrency heist
Three cyber crooks — including a church worker and a city Education Department staffer — were busted Tuesday for an elaborate $1.8 million cryptocurrency heist, authorities said.
The Nov. 4, 2017, scheme allegedly was orchestrated by Louis Meza, 35, who was arrested last December for the robbery.
He set up a meeting with the unnamed victim, then pretended to order an Uber to take him home, prosecutors said.
Allan Nunez, 36, allegedly posed as the Uber driver, while Darrell Colon hid in the back of the minivan. When the victim stepped in, Colon pulled a gun and demanded his keys and a memory stick associated with his Ether currency account, court papers charge.
“I stuck the gun in the guy’s ribs and took his stuff,” Colon, who said the weapon was a BB gun, allegedly confessed to investigators.
The frightened victim was held captive inside the van for two hours with a hood over his head before escaping, Assistant District Attorney James Vinocur said Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“The victim was able to run, terrified, for two blocks until he was able to reach a grocery store and call 911,” the prosecutor said.
Meza allegedly had enlisted his pal, Cesar Guzman, who works as a DOE paraprofessional, to help plan the robbery.
Officials said Guzman, 38, recruited Nunez, a church worker, and Colon from his motorcycle club.
While the victim was trapped inside the van, Meza and Guzman broke into his house.
Meza, who was caught on surveillance video leaving the victim’s home with a black box, used the stolen data to move the cyber funds into his personal account.
Authorities said they recovered most of the currency.
Defense lawyer Michael Barsky argued that Guzman, who runs a neighborhood charity and cares for his autistic nephew, should be granted reasonable bail.
Attorney Rob Georges made a similar pitch for Nunez, then invoked the sex-assault case against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
He said the disgraced producer was permitted to turn himself in and a bail package was prearranged with the DA’s office — a courtesy that wasn’t extended to Nunez or his co-defendants.
“And he [Nunez] is not suspected of being nearly as violent,” added Georges. Justice Melissa Jackson, who didn’t address the Weinstein comparison, ordered Nunez held on $50,000 bail, Colon on $75,000 and Guzman on $100,000.
The trio pleaded not guilty to grand larceny, kidnapping and other charges. They face up to 25 years in prison.