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Duo accused of large-scale bitcoin fraud designed to ruin Japan IT firm

The Metropolitan Police Department's headquarters are seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kenji Yoneda)

TOKYO -- Two men have been arrested on suspicion of defrauding Bunkyo Ward-based IT firm Vipstar Inc. of large sums of cryptocurrency, the Metropolitan Police Department's Cybercrime Control Division said on Jan. 23.

Former Vipstar employee Yuto Onitsuka, 25, now an unemployed resident of the capital's Nerima Ward, and Takuma Sasaki, 28, an unemployed resident of Noda in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, are suspected of defrauding the company of bitcoin worth a total of around 78 million yen (about $712,000). They are also suspected of committing computer fraud, and contravening the Act on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds.

Police allege that on Oct. 29, 2018, the suspects made 12 unauthorized entries into a bitcoin trader's account managed by Vipstar, from which they transferred funds into their own accounts.

Both admitted to the acts, with Onitsuka saying, "I couldn't agree with the management policy of the president at the time, so I thought I'd try and ruin the company." Sasaki is reported to have said, "I did as I was instructed (by Onitsuka)." The two are reported to have struck up a connection over the internet several years previously, and had apparently never met in real life.

According to the cybercrime control division, the fraud was discovered after Vipstar approached police in November 2018. At the time of the incident, Onitsuka was chief technology officer at the firm, and was in a position to know customers' accounts and password details. The withdrawn cryptocurrency was reportedly not customer money, but part of the working capital for the company.

Additionally, it appears that of the fraudulently transferred funds, Sasaki withdrew an amount of bitcoin equivalent in value to around 6 million yen to pay off debts and go on vacation.

(Japanese original by Yuki Yamamoto, City News Department)

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