Crypto fraud victim tells court he 'couldn't believe his eyes' as he saw his e-wallet emptied

The victim was drinking wine with none other than the accused himself when his $700,000 crypto balance was reduced to zero

A court has declared that there is sufficient evidence to indict a Rabat man accused of fraudulently taking $700,000 from a crypto wallet belonging to a person who he was having a drink with in Sliema.

Luke John Milton is accused of fraud in excess of €5,000, money laundering, other fraudulent gains, misappropriation, theft of cryptocurrency, aggravated by value, violently resisting arrest and being in possession of items used for fraud. He was also accused of handling stolen goods.

In a sitting before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech this afternoon, several police officers took the stand against the 25 year-old company director.

The first to testify was a police sergeant who told the court that he had been off duty when his friend called him up and told him that he had been the victim of massive fraud, asking him to come to his location quickly to avoid the suspect escaping.

As he arrived at the location, he found the victim and the accused drinking wine together.

The victim told the police that the accused had taken hold of his mobile phone after the victim had sent him $5,000 in cryptocurrency to exchange into legal tender. Milton had been seeking advice on investing €5,000 in blockchain through his mobile phone, the sergeant had been told.

The victim had told the police that he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw his $700,000 balance reduced to zero.

The accused claimed to have not received anything and that instead, he had been the victim of fraud. The two men were advised to file police reports against each other.

When police from the Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID) arrived and demanded the men hand over their phones, Milton had suddenly become agitated, shouting “why are you going to arrest me?”.

The accused had refused to hand over his phone and so during the car journey back to the police depot the arresting officers had to keep watch over him to make sure he didn’t use it,  Frendo Dimech was told. Milton was afraid the device would be tampered with and so when he was placed in the police lockup, he was still allowed to keep an eye on his phone from behind bars.

Bail submissions were lengthy and at times heated, with the magistrate intervening to calm things down. The accused had not given the police his device password and this will require the police to engage experts from abroad to crack it.

The case continues on 11 August.

Inspector Anthony Scerri prosecuted, together with lawyers Karl Muscat and Francesco Refalo from the office of the Attorney General. Lawyers Charles Mercieca and Matthew Xuereb are defence counsel. Lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri are appearing for the alleged victim.