80 Million “Pig Butchering” Scheme
Four individuals now face charges in connection with an alleged “pig butchering” scam, as revealed by officials on Thursday.
Three are from Southern California, and one is from suburban Chicago.
This scheme is said to have defrauded victims of over $80 million.
Unraveling the “Pig Butchering” Scheme
“Pig butchering,” derived from the Chinese phrase “sha zhu pan,” signifies an escalating scam tactic.
According to federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, the accused scammers employed this method, which involves cold calls through dating apps and various social media platforms.
They initiated contact with potential victims, gradually earning their trust before introducing the concept of investing in cryptocurrency as a business opportunity.
This tactic, dubbed a “pig butchering” scheme by U.S. authorities, is described as building the mark’s confidence before executing the theft of funds.
Typically, the scammers would initiate contact with victims through unsolicited messages or calls, sometimes posing as innocent “wrong number” contacts.
Federal authorities noted that these interactions would evolve into seemingly innocent friendships with the victims.
Subsequently, victims encounter other scheme members promoting deceitful cryptocurrency platforms, urging them to invest.
After funds are sent, false gains encourage more investments, leading to irrecoverable losses.
Defendants and Charges
The government has identified four defendants in the case.
They include Lu Zhang, a 36-year-old woman from Alhambra, California, and three male co-defendants—Justin Walker, 31, from Cypress, California; Joseph Wong, 32, of Rosemead, California; and Hailong Zhu, 40, from Naperville, Illinois.
All four individuals face charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, concealment money laundering, and international money laundering.
As stated in the press release:
They transferred the funds to domestic and international financial institutions. The overall fraud scheme in the related pig-butchering syndicate involved at least 284 transactions and resulted in more than $80 million in victim losses. More than $20 million in victim funds were directly deposited into bank accounts associated with the defendants.
If convicted, Zhang and Walker face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
As of Thursday afternoon, there was no immediate response from the attorneys representing Zhang and Walker.
It remains unclear whether the other two defendants have secured legal representation to address the charges on their behalf.