Police have arrested an alleged cryptocurrency fraudster who is suspected of swindling his victims out of more than €500,000 (£421,000) while living a life of luxury on the Costa del Sol, staying in exclusive hotels and villas, eating in expensive restaurants and buying designer clothes.
The Guardia Civil force described the Latvian man, who had been sought by Interpol since 2015, as “one of the biggest cryptocurrency con artists based in Spain”.
He was arrested in Latvia last week after an operation by the Guardia Civil’s cybercrime department and its central operational unit.
The force said that more than 1,000 people had fallen victim to the alleged scam, in which investors in a new virtual currency known as “Hodlife, the Unicorn Token”, were promised a share of the commissions charged on transactions using the electronic money.
The Guardia Civil said: “To spread word about the project, the arrested man used the most common digital communication channels to stage aggressive publicity campaigns on Twitter, Telegram and on a bespoke webpage.
“He very quickly amassed a large community of users who, thanks to the messages sent from these platforms, were duped into depositing their cryptocurrencies in the new business.”
To appear even more convincing and professional, the alleged scammer also employed an actor to appear in promotional videos posing as the currency’s creator.
At the end of June, however, Hodlife investors discovered their money had disappeared and realised they had been conned. The “rug pull” – or cut-and-run – led the Guardia Civil to open an investigation.
Their inquiries led them to wallets linked to a 29-year-old Lithuanian man who had spent long stretches of time in Spain since 2020. By analysing the different internet connections used in the scam, police established that the alleged conman had been operating from one of the most exclusive areas of the Costa del Sol.
“Officers on the trail of the suspect uncovered the high-end lifestyle enjoyed by both him and his accomplices,” the statement said. “They lived in luxury villas that cost more than €1,000 a day to rent, they hired top-of-the-range cars, and they spent enormous sums of money in designer clothes shops and in the Costa del Sol’s finest restaurants.”
Analysis of the different internet connections used by the gang also revealed that it alternated between villas and hotels, using the internet there to access different cryptocurrency sites and to transfer the stolen funds to their own wallets.
Eventually, officers realised that the alleged scammer had been using false documents for years and was in fact Latvian and not Lithuanian.
The statement continued: “Once his identity had been established beyond doubt, the Guardia Civil activated all the relevant mechanisms of international police cooperation and picked up the fraudster’s trail through different countries as he hired cars and mansions and obtained credit cards and bank accounts with false documents.”
Officers also discovered that the US had issued a search, arrest and extradition warrant for the suspect in 2015 in connection with alleged fraud.
A spokesman for the Guardia Civil said investigations were ongoing, adding it was unclear what charges the man could face and in which jurisdictions.