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Press Release

Two Estonian Nationals Extradited from Estonia to the United States for $575M Cryptocurrency Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Two Estonian nationals will make their initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in Seattle at 5:00 p.m. EDT today following their extradition from Estonia to the United States to face criminal charges related to their roles in a massive multi-faceted cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme.

Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, both 39, were arrested on Nov. 20, 2022, in Tallinn, Estonia, on an 18-count indictment filed in the Western District of Washington.

According to the indictment, Potapenko and Turõgin allegedly induced hundreds of thousands of victims to purchase contracts entitling them to a share of virtual currency mined by the defendants’ purported cryptocurrency mining service, HashFlare. Potapenko and Turõgin allegedly claimed HashFlare operated a massive cryptocurrency mining operation. Cryptocurrency mining is the process of using computers to generate cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, for profit. Potapenko and Turõgin allegedly offered contracts which, for a fee, allowed customers to rent a percentage of HashFlare’s purported mining capacity.  In exchange, HashFlare agreed to pay out the virtual currency produced by the contract holders’ portion of the operation. Between 2015 and 2019, customers from around the world allegedly entered into more than $550 million worth of HashFlare contracts.

However, HashFlare allegedly did not have the virtual currency mining equipment it professed to have and engaged in less than one percent of the Bitcoin mining activity it claimed. According to the indictment, when investors asked to withdraw their mining proceeds, Potapenko and Turõgin could not pay the investors with the mined currency they had promised. Instead, Potapenko and Turõgin either resisted making the payments or paid off the investors using virtual currency they purchased on the open market—not currency they had mined. According to the indictment, Hashflare continued offering contracts for virtual currency mining through August 2019.

In May 2017, Potapenko and Turõgin offered investments in a company called Polybius, which they said would form a bank specializing in virtual currency. Potapenko and Turõgin allegedly promised to pay investors dividends from Polybius’ profits.  Potapenko and Turõgin raised at least $25 million and used approximately $7 million of HashFlare proceeds in this scheme and allegedly transferred most of the money to other bank accounts and virtual currency wallets they and their co-conspirators controlled. Polybius never formed a bank or paid any dividends.

Victims of the defendants’ schemes paid more than $575 million to the Potapenko and Turõgin companies. Potapenko and Turõgin allegedly used shell companies and phony contracts and invoices to launder the fraud proceeds and to purchase real estate and luxury cars. The indictment alleges that the money laundering conspiracy involved at least 75 real properties, six luxury vehicles, cryptocurrency wallets, and thousands of cryptocurrency mining machines.

Potapenko and Turõgin are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, they each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman for the Western District of Washington; Assistant Director Michael D. Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi of the FBI Seattle Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case.

The United States thanks the Cybercrime Bureau of the National Criminal Police of the Estonian Police and Border Guard for its support with the investigation. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant investigative assistance and in securing the arrest and extradition of Potapenko and Turõgin. U.S. Customs and Border Protection also assisted in facilitating the defendants’ entrance to the United States.

Trial Attorneys Adrienne E. Rosen and David Ginensky of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and Sok Jiang for the Western District of Washington are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jehiel Baer for the Western District of Washington is handling asset forfeiture aspects of the case.

Individuals who believe they may have been a victim in this case should visit  

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated May 30, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-686