A Florida man has been convicted of scheming to steal cryptocurrencies – but not in the way you might first expect. Remy St Felix, a 24-year-old from West Palm Beach, was found guilty by a federal jury in North Carolina for his role in overseeing a gang that broke into US homes, violently kidnapped citizens, and stole their crypto.

While US$1.7bil (RM8bil) in crypto was stolen last year, the lion’s share was via hackers breaking into wallets and exchanges remotely, according to Chainalysis. Crypto stolen in person – such as by physically forcing a victim to drain an account – is reported far less often.

St Felix was convicted on nine counts, including conspiracy, kidnapping, and using a firearm to further crimes of violence. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept 11 and faces a prison sentence ranging from seven years to life.

According to prosecutors, St Felix led a gang that targeted crypto owners between September 2022 and July 2023. In total, the gang members stole hundreds of millions of dollars in crypto by forcing themselves into homes and holding victims captive until they drained their own accounts.

St Felix both planned and orchestrated a series of robberies in Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and New York. His conviction on Wednesday is one of more than a dozen tied to the case.

‘A horrible, painful experience’

Once the gang picked targets, it would hack into their email accounts and conduct physical surveillance prior to the attacks. St Felix and his coconspirators reportedly attempted to hide their tracks by using encrypted messaging platforms.

Once the funds were stolen, they were laundered through Monero, an anonymity-enhanced cryptocurrency, as well as “instant exchanges” such as Changelly, Shapeshift, and ChangeNOW, that don’t require know-your-customer audits, according to prosecutors.

One example of an attack presented to the jury occurred in April 2023. Here, St Felix and his crew forced their way into a home, where they assaulted, zip-tied, and held at gunpoint their victim. While the gang threatened more violence against the victim and their spouse, the victim forcibly transferred US$150,000 (RM708,150).

“The victims in this case suffered a horrible, painful experience that no citizen should have to endure,” US Attorney Sandra J. Hairston for the Middle District of North Carolina said in a statement. “The defendant and his coconspirators acted purely out of greed and callously terrorised those they targeted. The jury’s verdict in this case represents a vital step in securing justice for these victims.” – Fortune.com/The New York Times