Undercover British police took a little train ride last December. It wasn’t for a police conference or to participate in a training exercise; instead, it was the perfect opportunity to corral a fugitive they had finally caught up with after two years. The fugitive was Grant West, and he had become known as one of the most prolific cybercriminals in the world.
Going by the name of “Courvoisier” online, he allegedly concocted a series of cybercrimes directed at more than 100 companies between July and December 2015. According to investigators, West targeted gambling shops, cellphone companies and supermarkets, using phishing emails sent to the stores’ customers that resulted in the individuals giving up their bank details, credit card numbers and passwords.
West used this information to make a small fortune on the Dark Web, selling the data to unscrupulous scammers. He received payments for his services, and converted them all to BTC—when he was arrested, over $700,000 in BTC was found in several wallets held on his laptop.
Under many circumstances, law enforcement officers have a difficult time gathering intel, especially when criminals use the anonymity of cryptocurrency to their advantage. However, when West was nabbed, his laptop was turned on and unlocked, and investigators were able to walk right in. They found his encrypted addresses on the computer, which helped authorities secure their case against him.
According to Sharon Cohen Levin, a money-laundering authority who has worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Manhattan office, investigators often have the ability to know that cryptocurrency has been utilized in the commission of a crime, but they aren’t able to identify the individuals. Having access to West’s laptop changed that significantly in this case. Levin explained to USA Today, “There is not necessarily any place, for example, that you can subpoena to find information about Bitcoin-related activity.”
The arrest comes after a two-year undercover operation led by Scotland Yard. The arrest was led by Mick Gallagher, who said, “These people generally feel they can operate with impunity, that they can’t be touched. We have now debunked that.”
West was found innocently traveling on the train, oblivious to what was about to go down. He pleaded guilty to the charges and will stand before a judge on May 25 to learn his fate. His girlfriend and alleged accomplice, Rachael Brookes, was sentenced to community service for two years, authorities said.