ACFE Insights Blog

6 High-Profile Fraud Cases of the Past 6 Months

From massive corporate fraud in China to sophisticated cryptocurrency thefts and international scam networks, these cases underline the persistent challenges in combating financial crime.

By Abbie Staiger June 2024 Duration: 4-minute read
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Fraud cases seem to be a constant in our global financial landscape, often involving staggering amounts of money and complex, multifaceted schemes that capture the attention of the public and authorities alike. The first six months of 2024 have been no different, with several high-profile fraud cases coming to light. From massive corporate fraud in China to sophisticated cryptocurrency thefts and international scam networks, these cases underline the persistent challenges in combating financial crime.  

1. Evergrande: China Accused Troubled Property Developer of Financial Fraud in $78 Billion Case 

CNN: March 19, 2024 

Chinese regulators accused Evergrande, one of the country's largest property developers, of inflating revenues by $78 billion, marking the largest financial fraud case in mainland China's securities markets history. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) imposed a hefty penalty of CNY 4.175 billion (USD 580 million) on Hengda Real Estate, the group's main Chinese unit. Additionally, Evergrande's founder, Xu Jiayin, once China's richest man, was fined CNY 47 million (USD 6.5 million) and banned from the securities markets for life. The accusations stemmed from an eight-month investigation revealing that the company had fabricated 214 billion yuan (USD 30 billion) in sales for 2019 and another CNY 350 billion (USD 48.6 billion) in sales for 2020. These falsified figures significantly inflated Evergrande's net profits, ultimately leading to severe penalties and the company's forced liquidation ordered by a Hong Kong court in January 2024. 

2. ‘Super Villain’ of $6 Billion Fraud Was Key to U.K. Laundering Trial, Lawyer Said 

Bloomberg: March 1, 2024 

In the U.K., a woman named Jian Wen faced trial for allegedly laundering vast amounts of Bitcoin into cash. Her lawyer argued that Jian was manipulated by a “super villain,” Yadi Zhang (known as Zhimin Qian in China), who masterminded a USD 6 billion investment fraud in China. Jian, who unknowingly aided in the laundering operation, had her home raided by police who seized Bitcoin worth more than GBP 1.7 billion (USD 2.1 billion). The court heard how Zhang, a master of deception, created ten investment vehicles, scamming approximately 130,000 investors in China. Jian's lawyers contended that she was an unwitting participant, controlled by Zhang’s charisma and deceit. Zhang fled the U.K. in 2020, just before she was due for questioning, leaving Jian to face the consequences of the fraud. 

3. Ippei Mizuhara Charged with Bank Fraud in Criminal Complaint 

MLB: April 11, 2024 

Ippei Mizuhara, the former translator for MLB star Shohei Ohtani, was charged with bank fraud for illegally transferring more than USD 16 million from Ohtani's bank account to settle gambling debts. Mizuhara, who was dismissed by the Dodgers following the revelations, faced up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted. According to the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, Mizuhara carried out unauthorized wire transfers between November 2021 and January 2024, manipulating bank records and impersonating Ohtani to facilitate the fraud. Investigators found no evidence suggesting Ohtani's involvement in the fraudulent activities, confirming his status as a victim. 

4. U.S. Brothers Arrested for Stealing $25 Million in Crypto in Just 12 Seconds 

BBC: May 15, 2024 

Anton and James Peraire-Bueno, brothers and MIT graduates, were charged with wire fraud and money laundering after allegedly stealing USD 25 million in Ethereum cryptocurrency in a matter of seconds. The U.S. Department of Justice highlighted this as the first case of its kind, emphasizing the brothers' sophisticated understanding of Ethereum's transaction validation process. Their scheme involved intercepting and altering pending private transactions to siphon off the funds. When approached by Ethereum representatives, the brothers refused to return the stolen funds and instead attempted to launder them. If convicted, they each faced more than 20 years in prison. 

5. Hundreds Rescued from Love Scam Centre in the Philippines 

BBC: March 14, 2024 

A raid on a scam center in the Philippines led to the rescue of hundreds of people forced to engage in "love scams." These scams, also known as "pig butchering" scams, involved luring victims into fake romantic relationships to defraud them. The raid, which freed 383 Filipinos, 202 Chinese and 73 other foreign nationals, was initiated after a Vietnamese man escaped and reported his ordeal. Victims were tricked into posing as online lovers to steal money and personal information from unsuspecting targets. Authorities found evidence of torture and harsh conditions for those trapped in the scam center, underscoring the severe human cost of these operations. 

6. Chinese Network Behind One of World’s ‘Largest Online Scams’ 

The Guardian: May 8, 2024 

An international investigation revealed a vast network of fake online shops operated from China, duping over 800,000 people in Europe and the US. These fraudulent websites, posing as legitimate retailers of designer brands, collected money and sensitive personal data without delivering any products. The operation involved more than 76,000 fake websites and may have attempted to steal as much as EUR 50 million. The sophisticated network used expired domains to avoid detection, and personal data collected could potentially be exploited for future cybercrimes. This large-scale scam highlighted the growing threat of online fraud and the importance of robust cybersecurity measures. 

These six fraud cases from the past six months illustrate the varied and pervasive nature of financial crimes globally. Each case underscores the importance of vigilance, robust regulatory frameworks and international cooperation to combat such sophisticated schemes effectively.