An unidentified man from New York City was allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint by an acquaintance and robbed of a digital wallet containing $1.8 million worth of ether. Identified as Louis Meza of Passaic, New Jersey, the acquaintance now faces 25 years in prison if convicted. One of Meza’s accomplices is still at large.
According to prosecutors, the kidnap occurred last month, after the victim accepted a ride home in a minivan arranged by an acquaintance. Another person who had been hiding in the minivan pulled out a gun, demanding the victim’s cell phone, digital wallet and keys.
The acquaintance has been identified as 35-year-old Louis Meza of Passaic, New Jersey. Meza is charged with burglary, robbery and kidnapping, and faces as long as 25 years in prison if convicted.
The defendant is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Kidnapping in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree, Criminal Use of a Firearm in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Computer Trespass, and Computer Tampering. He pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday.
Meza’s accomplice, who held the victim at gunpoint, has not been apprehended as of yet.
Video surveillance showed Meza enter the victim’s apartment and then leave the apartment building holding a box believed to contain the victim’s digital wallet and private keys. Meza then transferred approximately $1.8 million worth of ether stolen to his own personal account, prosecutors said.
“Hackers, data breaches, and fraud aren’t the only threats to an individual’s wealth,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance said in a press release.
“This case demonstrates the increasingly common intersection between cyber and violent crime. The defendant is charged with coordinating an elaborate kidnapping, armed robbery, and burglary to gain access to the victim’s digital wallet and the significant funds it contained. We can expect this type of crime to become increasingly common as cryptocurrency values surge upward,” Vance explained.
$1.8 million ether stolen at gunpoint – Image source: New York County District Attorney Office