Cyber Scammer Confesses to Fraud Fueled by Cocaine, Whiskey
(Bloomberg) -- An Israeli man confessed to helping to steal nearly $10 million from hundreds of victims of a sprawling cyber-trading scam headed by the so-called Wolf of Sofia, while under the influence of cocaine and whiskey.
The 45-year-old, who can be identified only as Tal-Jacki Z.F., owned up to duping investors from Germany, Austria and other nations via call centers operating from Eastern European cities, on day one of a trial in Munich.
“In reality, investors never had a chance of getting their money back, let alone making any profits,” prosecutor Nino Goldbeck told the court. The accused was part of the “Wolf of Sofia” operation, named after its head Gal B., who got the nickname for running the scam from the Bulgarian capital.
The perpetrators in such scams delude victims with faked graphics showing profits from trading financial instruments, including crypto currencies, binary options and contracts for difference, said Goldbeck. When someone wanted a payout, they were talked out of it, before eventually being told the money was gone because deals went bad, he said. The funds were channeled trough a money-laundering network instead of investing them in any trades.
At the time of the scam, Tal-Jacki Z.F. consumed two to three liters of whiskey and two to three grams of cocaine every day, occasionally also heroine, his lawyer Sarah Stolle told the court. The drug abuse was a way to cope with the high pressure in the business and also because of the qualms he had about what he was doing to investors, she said. He’s seeking to get into rehab and hopes to be transferred to Israel where his former wife lives with their children.
In a statement read by his lawyer, Tal-Jacki Z.F. admitted the crimes and said the indictment accurately depicted his actions.
He “deeply regrets what he has done,” Stolle said. “He apologizes to all the victims and their families.” Tal-Jacki Z.F. also said that he suffered from the withdrawal of drugs and had suicidal thoughts.
The case is part of a broader international investigation into organized cyber-fraud crime out of Eastern European countries. Prosecutors from Bavaria’s specialized unit against cybercrime have joined forces with investigators in Israel, Bulgaria, Georgia and other countries in recent years. In July, they searched another call center in Bulgaria and in October they conducted raids in Israel and Georgia, arresting eight people.
From 2015 to 2019, Tal-Jacki Z.F. was a manager of call centers operating out of Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia, under the false name “Ethan Fox”. They used trading-platforms they called Safemarkets, OptionStarsGlobal, Cryptopoint, XTraderFX and others. At the XTraderFX, investors globally paid in at least $70 million in less than a year, according to the indictment.
Tal-Jacki Z.F.’s confession is part of a deal with court and prosecutors under which he was guaranteed to get a prison term within a range of 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 years, the court said at the hearing. The judges have scheduled seven more days of trial.
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