The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint to recover over $150 million worth of embezzled bitcoins. During a Sony robbery investigation, the FBI tracked down the funds.
According to the Justice Department, "The United States filed a lawsuit today to protect $154 million in stolen funds that were seized by law enforcement during an FBI investigation of the theft from a Tokyo-based Sony subsidiary," the lawsuit was filed in a federal court.
In May 2021, a Sony employee is alleged to have embezzled these funds through the conversion of over 3,800 Bitcoin (now valued at over $180 million).
According to the Justice Department following an FBI investigation, those funds were seized by law enforcement on December 1, 2021.
The Justice Department identified that Sony employee as Rei Ishii. Ishii worked for Sony Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of the Sony Group.
When Ishii attempted to transfer funds among the company's accounts, it was alleged that he diverted $154 million.
There is evidence that Ishii falsified transactions, causing funds to be diverted from an account controlled by the company to a California bank account controlled by Ishii. This led to the funds being converted into Bitcoin. Additionally, a civil forfeiture lawsuit was filed in California in order to protect Sony's funds.
Various law enforcement agencies assisted the FBI in its investigation, including the National Police Agency of Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and the Japan Prosecutors Unit on Emerging Crimes.
The investigation was also assisted by Sony and Citibank. As soon as the theft was detected, both firms contacted and cooperated with law enforcement, according to Suzanne Turner, FBI Special Agent in Charge.
Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, "We intend to return stolen funds to the victims of this audacious theft," by taking today's action.
In his statement, Grossman said that crypto cannot be used to hide ill-gotten gains from law enforcement. He added that the United States coordinates heavily with its international partners to prevent crime and recover stolen funds.