Ashley Moody Busts Cryptocurrency Crime Ring in Orlando

Ashley Moody Busts Cryptocurrency Crime Ring in Orlando

Crime finds a new home in cryptocurrency

Jim McCool
Jim McCool
July 13, 2023

With cryptocurrency still a relatively new endeavor for Americans, new problems have already arisen because of the alternative to physical cash.  Florida's Attorney General Ashley Moody (R-FL) has already busted a complex cybercrime scheme involving cryptocurrency and the dark web.

As Attorney General, Ashley Moody has historically placed a high premium on protecting consumers from financial crimes.  Earlier this summer, Moody busted a non-profit director for stealing roughly $3 million from the non-profit that was founded to help feed hungry children.

With the advent of cryptocurrency, financial crime has found a new frontier to roam that is all but tamed by law and order.  In this case, an Orlando teen led the complex cybercrime operation. The lead defendant, Justin Vassell, used cryptocurrency to buy bundles of stolen personal information to open credit card accounts and purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise.

The Attorney General's office has confirmed that Vassell and five others have been arrested in connection with the activity.  It has been reported that upwards of $300,000 of merchandise was stolen including ammunition and components of firearms that were then resold to pawn shops.

Moody responded to the seemingly complex, yet juvenile crime ring being caught today, "The mastermind behind this complex cyber fraud scheme thought he could avoid detection by using stolen identities and cryptocurrency to conceal the crimes. But through the diligent efforts of my Statewide Prosecutors and FDLE agents, the entire scheme was exposed and the criminals involved arrested."

The FDLE praised the efforts of the Attorney General, Commissioner Mark Glass stated, "Under the leadership of Attorney General Ashley Moody, the Office of Statewide Prosecution has been a tremendous partner in bringing to justice criminals who prey on our citizens. I am extremely proud of this investigation and our FDLE Orlando team."

Vassell and the five associates—Jacqueline Vassell, Shannon Vassell, Marc Williams, Deonte Benejan, and Lawrence Dority—face charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering. The charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering are comprised of more than 90 predicate incidents including criminal use of personal identification information, money laundering, extortion, and dealing in stolen property. Justin Vassell faces additional charges of grand theft of $100,000 or more, extortion and criminal use of personal identification information of more than 30 persons.  Vassell is currently looking at a maximum of 135 years in prison if found guilty.

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Jim McCool

Jim McCool

Jim is a graduate of Florida State University where he studied Political Science, Religion and Criminology. He has been a reporter for the Floridian since January of 2021 and will start law school in 2024.

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