Feds charge 24-year-old Chicago trader in first crypto-fraud case

ByChuck Goudie and Christine Tressel, Ross Weidner WLS logo
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Feds charge 24-year-old Chicago trader in first crypto-fraud case
Chuck Goudie and the I-Team report on a man who referred to himself as "DEGEN"... which prosecutors say stood for "degenerative gambler."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 24-year-old trader who considered himself "invincible" according to federal investigators has become the first target of a criminal fraud prosecution involving "cryptocurrency," after allegedly siphoning $2 million in Bitcoin and Litecoin from his Chicago employer.

Joseph Kim, whose bio lists him as a 2016 graduate of University of Chicago, is charged with fraud against Consolidated Trading LLC.

Kim made his initial court appearance in Chicago Federal Court Friday in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel G. Martin at the Dirksen Federal Building. He is charged with one count of wire fraud. He did not enter a plea. Judge Martin asked the Korean-American defendant if he spoke English and understood the proceedings, which he did.

Joseph Kim makes first court appearance

As part of his $100,000 bond deal, Kim surrendered his passport and his travel is now limited between northern Illinois and Arizona. The bond conditions also include a restriction that Kim cannot engage in any trading of securities , commodities or cryptocurrency on behalf of third parties. Any funds traded must belong solely to Kim.

He is also restricted from communicating with his former co-workers at Consolidated Trading.

The federal complaint claims Kim illegally transferred the firm's cryptocurrency to his own personal accounts to cover trading losses.

Kim then lied about the transfers and tried to cover up the illegal trades by repaying some of the funds, prosecutors claim.

Kim referred to himself as "DEGEN" according to a federal complaint, short for "degenerative gambler."

In an email to his bosses last November, Kim allegedly admitted to the scheme. "It was not my intention to steal for myself" he is quoted as writing. "Until the end I was perversely trying to fix what I had already done"

He added according to prosecutors. "I can't believe I did not stop myself when I had the money to give back, and I will live with that for the rest of my life."

Consolidated Trading, located at 71 S. Wacker, did not reply to I-Team requests for comment.

He was hired as a trader there in July of 2016. In the email last November to the firm's top executives authorities say Kim apologized and said he was "sorry to betray you all like this."

Federal prosecutors in Chicago say it is "the first criminal prosecution in Chicago involving the cryptocurrency trading industry."

Kim is on the docket to make an initial court appearance on Friday at 10:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel G. Martin at the Dirksen Federal Building.

Prosecutors are expected to outline the charge that "from September through November 2017, Kim transferred more than $2 million of the trading firm's Bitcoin and Litecoin to personal accounts to cover his own trading losses, which had been incurred while trading cryptocurrency futures on foreign exchanges."

Federal agents say Consolidated's management team discovered the misappropriation.

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