U.S. Attorney’s Office Seeks To Identify Potential Victims Of Internet Fraud Scheme With Links To Nigeria
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Christopher Allan Boden, a/k/a “Captain,” 46, of Grand Rapids, Daniel Reynold DeJager, a/k/a “Daniel Miester,” and “Danichi,” 35, of Tacoma, Washington, and Leesa Beth Vogt, a/k/a “Lis Bokt,” and “Moose,” 37, also of Grand Rapids, pled guilty to various financial crimes. Boden pled guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, money laundering, and structuring deposits to evade financial institution reporting requirements. DeJager pled guilty to conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and money laundering. Vogt pled guilty to structuring while operating the unlicensed money transmitting business. The pleas occurred before the Honorable Robert J. Jonker, Chief United States District Judge. Boden and DeJager pled to offenses carrying a maximum of up to twenty years in prison, and Vogt pled to an offense carrying a maximum of ten years. The defendants also are subject to financial penalties. The Court scheduled Vogt’s sentencing hearing for February 17, DeJager’s sentencing hearing for February 22, and Boden’s sentencing hearing for February 25.
According to the plea agreements and other public records, Boden, DeJager, and Vogt operated an unlicensed money transmitting business at The Geek Group, a registered non-profit entity, between March 2017 and December 2018, when federal agents searched the business, leading to its closure. DeJager purchased bitcoin from registered exchanges, often laundered it, and then sent it to Boden to sell. Boden and other staff at The Geek Group, including Vogt, would sell bitcoin to customers. Boden, Vogt, and others then “structured” deposits of the cash proceeds so as to avoid detection of their operation and in order to purchase more bitcoin. The defendants sold more than $740,000 in bitcoin. Boden’s customers included drug dealers, and he held himself out to be a money launderer, explaining to prospective customers that “people buy from” him because he sold “clean” bitcoin, not “dirty” bitcoin that could be traced.
“Cryptocurrency is not a license or invitation to commit crime,” said U.S. Attorney Birge. “Federal law regulates those who deal in cryptocurrency as it does those who deal in government-issued currency. We will root out and prosecute crypto criminals wherever we find them. Whether cryptocurrency will be with us for years to come remains to be seen, but its vitality is contingent upon the willingness of those who use it to follow the law.”
“HSI is in the forefront of investigating crimes that utilize cryptocurrency to launder criminal proceeds or to purchase illegal services from throughout the world,” said Homeland Security Investigations Detroit Special Agent in Charge Vance Callender. “Our special agents, working with the IRS, dismantled this unlicensed money transmitting business and put a stop to their illegal enterprise.”
“Financial transactions designed to mask the origin of proceeds from the sale of controlled substances often involve multiple crimes including money laundering, structuring and even unlicensed money service businesses. Stopping complex financial schemes that inject proceeds from illicit sources into the financial system is paramount to dismantling criminal enterprises,” said IRS Criminal Investigation’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Thomas. “IRS-CI is committed to following the money every step, investigating and uncovering complex criminal financial schemes to disrupt and dismantle organized criminal enterprises.”
The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and IRS Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Grand Rapids Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin M. Presant is prosecuting the case.