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Criminal gangs in Venezuela ‘stealed crypto from retirees’

A Venezuelan police agency says it has caught criminals accused of stealing cryptocurrency from pensioners by misusing crypto remittance platform Patria.

According to an Instagram post from Douglas Rico, Director of the Criminal, Criminal and Scientific Investigation Services Agency (known locally as CICPC), the agency arrested “members of a gang “criminal group” that he claimed was active in Maturín, a city in the state of Monagas. Rico writes that police have arrested three people – a man and woman in their 30s and a man in his 20s.

Police claim that the group calls themselves “Hackers from the East” and is targeting retired people, with the aim of stealing their cryptocurrencies. The government-run Patria platform allows Venezuelans abroad 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 cryptocurrency (PTR).

Rico claims that the case has now been sent to judicial authorities, and released photos of the trio, in addition to four cell phones and a computer that he said police seized.

The head of the CICPC said that the agency had found evidence that the gang had “obtained” login information from victims they believed to be prey. It appears they created Patria accounts in the name of deceased individuals – and tried to trick the state into paying them pensions.

While on the Patria platform, police said the gang proceeded to move pensioners’ crypto holdings into wallets opened at a variety of “different financial institutions”. Police say the gang also used “fake documents” and “appropriated the identities of the deceased” successfully.

After obtaining the tokens, the alleged gang members exchanged their coins for fiat bolívars. Rico concluded that the money was then “transferred to the gang’s personal accounts for profit.”

Both CICPC and SUNACRIP, the national cryptocurrency regulator, have warned of the dangers of scammers posing as “regulators” to help pensioners who need to use the Patria platform.

Such individuals, officials warn, “offer to take on the whole process” of withdrawing PTR payments and converting tokens to cash – but in reality, hoping to get data they need to steal assets from vulnerable retirees.