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18-yr-old boy accused of 15-million-yen 'Monacoin' cryptocurrency theft

TOKYO -- The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has sent papers to prosecutors accusing an 18-year-old boy of stealing some 15 million yen worth of Monacoin virtual currency.

The boy from Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, stands accused of fraud using computers, among other counts. It is Japan's first case in which a suspect has been exposed in a virtual currency theft, according to the MPD's cybercrime division.

The boy specifically stands accused of accessing Monappy, an online wallet service for storing cryptocurrency, between Aug. 14 and Sept. 1 last year to withdraw the Monacoin. The teenager took advantage of website vulnerabilities arising from access overload glitches.

"I felt as if I'd found a secret trick and thought I would take out all of the Monacoin," the boy was quoted as telling investigators.

According to the division and other sources, the boy used Tor internet anonymity software to access the websites, mostly using his smartphone. He then saved the stolen Monacoin in an anonymous, dividend-bearing account at a cryptocurrency exchange overseas. He had amassed 100,000 yen in dividends by the time of his arrest, and used the funds to purchase a smartphone and other items.

About 7,700 people had their Monacoin stolen in the case.

Tor was originally developed by the U.S. Navy to secure the secrecy of communications by encoding the content and routing it through multiple servers. In recent years, Tor has been abused as a cybercrime tool.

In the 18-year-old's case, the MPD managed to identify the suspect by analyzing cryptocurrency transaction details embedded in the blockchain histories saved on servers.

According to the National Police Agency, there were 169 cryptocurrency thefts via unauthorized access in Japan last year, with damages totaling roughly 67.7 billion yen.

(Japanese original by Ikuko Ando, City News Department)

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