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Press Release

Two Estonian defendants indicted in massive cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme extradited to U.S.

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Men arrested and indictment unsealed in November 2022; will appear for initial appearance in Seattle today

Seattle –Two Estonian citizens will appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00 PM today following their extradition from Estonia, announced U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.

Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, both 39, were arrested in Tallinn, Estonia on November 20, 2022, on an 18-count indictment from the Western District of Washington charging conspiracy, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The Estonian government authorized extradition. Late last week the Estonian Supreme Court declined to intervene in the extradition proceeding, clearing the way for the defendants’ removal to the United States. The FBI escorted the defendants to the United States.

According to the indictment, Potapenko and Turõgin, are alleged to have induced hundreds of thousands of victims to purchase contracts in a cryptocurrency mining service called HashFlare. Victims paid more than $575 million to the defendants’ companies. The defendants then used shell companies to launder the fraud proceeds and to purchase real estate and luxury cars.

According to the indictment, Potapenko and Turõgin claimed that their business, HashFlare, operated a massive cryptocurrency mining operation. Cryptocurrency mining is the process of using computers to generate cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, for profit. The defendants offered contracts under which customers could pay a fee to rent a percentage of HashFlare’s mining operations in exchange for the virtual currency produced by their portion of the operation. Customers from around the world, including from western Washington, bought more than $550 million worth of HashFlare contracts between 2015 and 2019.

HashFlare allegedly did not have the virtual currency mining equipment it claimed to have. In fact, according to the indictment, HashFlare’s equipment performed Bitcoin mining at a rate of less than one percent of the computing power it purported to have. When investors asked to withdraw their mining proceeds, the defendants were not able to pay with the mined currency as promised. Instead, the defendants either resisted making the payments, or paid off the investors using virtual currency the defendants had purchased on the open market—not currency they had mined. HashFlare closed its operations in 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. The defendants promised to pay investors dividends from Polybius’ profits. The men raised at least $25 million in this scheme and transferred most of the money to other bank accounts and virtual currency wallets they controlled. Polybius never formed a bank or paid any dividends.

The indictment also charges the defendants with conspiring to launder their criminal proceeds by using shell companies and phony contracts and invoices. 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.

The men are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each of these crimes is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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 this investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) provided extensive assistance to the investigation and in securing the arrests and extraditions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) assisted in facilitating the defendants’ entrance to the United States.

This investigation and arrests demonstrate the great cooperation between U.S. and Estonian law enforcement. Estonia has been a crucial ally to disrupt this cyber-enabled crime, and the United States thanks the Estonians for their continued assistance.

Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and Sok Jiang of the Western District of Washington, and Trial Attorneys Adrienne E. Rosen and David Ginensky of DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case. Assistant United States Attorney Jehiel Baer of 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 for more information.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated May 30, 2024

Financial Fraud
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud