Queens Village man charged with grand larceny in cryptocurrency scheme

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A Queens Village website consultant has been charged with grand larceny for stealing the proceeds of an online sale of more than 3,000 non-fungible tokens (NFTs), according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Nithushan Sachchithanantham, 28, if Hillside Avenue, was arraigned Thursday, Dec. 16, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Denise Johnson on a two-count complaint charging him with grand larceny and unlawful possession of personal identification.

The defendant set up an online sale of digital artwork for his two clients and then allegedly diverted nearly $233,000 in SOL cryptocurrency to his personal cryptocurrency wallets. This case is the first prosecution for the Cyber Crime Unit of the DA’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau.

According to the charges, last month Sachchithanantham was hired as a software consultant. He was tasked with setting up an online sale for two men who wanted to sell uniquely coded digital artwork, known as non-fungible tokens, on the Solana network. The defendant was contracted to help develop more than 3,000 digital images of crocodiles collectively known as the Solana Swamp and prepare them for an online sale where the NFTs could be purchased using the cryptocurrency SOL.

Sachchithanantham set up an online wallet to receive the payments and was paid a consultant fee of $5,400 worth of cryptocurrency.

Katz said when the sale took place on Dec. 1, the artwork sold for about $233,000 worth of SOL cryptocurrency. The victims then noticed that the cryptocurrency funds which are traceable through a public transaction ledger called blockchain were transferred from their own digital wallets into other digital wallets without their permission. When the victims contacted the defendant, Sachchithanantham allegedly ignored their attempts to reach him and did not return their calls or respond to messages.

Katz said investigators tracked the cryptocurrency transactions to digital wallets set up by the defendant.

“Cryptocurrency, NFTs and blockchain may seem difficult to understand but the alleged wrongdoing, in this case, is simple: stealing money is a crime,” Katz said. “The victims wanted to sell their digital artwork as non-fungible tokens with the defendant’s technical help. Instead, this website wiz allegedly helped himself to the sellers’ $233,000 in cryptocurrency profits. My office created the Cyber Crimes Unit to handle these unique cases that delve into the virtual world we live in today to ensure justice for all victims of crime.”

Judge Johnson set the defendant’s return date for Feb. 8. If convicted, Sachchithanantham faces up to 15 years in prison.