Crypto scam: Chinese national Naperville man Hailong Zhu charged in ‘Pig Butchering’ financial crypto scheme

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WLS) — Chinese national Naperville man Hailong Zhu has been charged in a high-dollar financial scheme.

The west suburban man is among four people who allegedly struck up fake relationships with wealthy victims, convinced them to invest in sham businesses, and then just stole their money. They stole $80 million dollars, according to federal agents.

“Pig Butchering” is a cryptocurrency con that law enforcement likens to fattening up a hog before slaughter.

Last March, federal agents did move in on the Naperville residence of Zhu. The 40-year old Chinese national had recently arrived in Illinois, according to federal investigators, on a one-way ticket from California.

Zhu was charged singly at the time in a cryptocurrency money laundering case out of Virginia, in which authorities said Zhu’s Illinois state identification card was provided to open a bank account allegedly used in the scheme.

“This case is about really the oldest con game in the world, just with a very new kind of technology,” said Chicago federal prosecutor, Gil Soffer, ABC7’s chief legal analyst.

“It looks to be a good old fashioned con game where the bad guys strike up a friendship of false friendship with victims, get their confidence, get their money and steal it. It’s as simple as that,” said Soffer.

Zhu was acquitted in September of the Virginia charges, according to U.S. court records, and released from custody. He is now facing similar, new charges in California with three other men.

Two of them have appeared in court but Zhu has not yet been arrested.

Federal investigators said “Pig Butchering” scams target BitCoin and cryptocurrency investors by preying on victim’s emotions, and not just greed. Many times scammers cultivate new victims on dating services; first sending messages to initiate a romantic relations, according to investigators.

Zhu’s attorney in that Virginia case, Geremy Kamens, tells the ABC7 I-Team, “Mr. Zhu was acquitted of all charges in Virginia because he was not a knowing participant in this fraud scheme.”

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