Virginia men charged in Irvington home invasion plot targeting millions in Bitcoin

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Two Virginia men are accused of taking part in a home invasion plan in Irvington two years ago that targeted tens of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Friday.

Dominic Pineda and Shon Morgan, both 21, were arrested in Virginia on an indictment in the Southern District of New York charging them with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.

Federal authorities would not confirm whether the target was an Irvington High School senior, Ellis Pinsky, who three weeks earlier made headlines when he was sued by a cryptocurrency investor claiming Pinsky had stolen more than $23 million in Bitcoin from him in 2018.

U.S. District Court in White Plains
U.S. District Court in White Plains

But Irvington police Lt. Kevin Johnson said Friday that there was a break-in on May 23, 2020, at a home on Hamilton Road. He would not specify the house but Pinsky's mother owns a home on that street.

Police responded to an alarm at the home as well as a 911 call from a resident shortly before 4:30 a.m. When they arrived, one person was found in the basement and another outside the house, Johnson said.

A pair of brass knuckles was found in the house.

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Johnson would not identify the two but said neither were Morgan or Pineda. No state charges were filed and a decision was made that the case would be handled by federal authorities.

According to U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, Pineda and Morgan conspired with others to break into the house and "force its residents to provide the code to what the defendants believed was tens of millions of dollars in Bitcoin currency."

Hobbs Act robbery is one that affects interstate commerce. The defendants were expected to be presented Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Virginia. It was not immediately clear who their lawyers were.

The case was investigated by the FBI Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force with assistance from Irvington police and the Greenburgh Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

Pinsky was sued in federal court weeks before the break-in by Michael Terpin, a cryptocurrency investor from California, who claimed he had $23.8 million in Bitcoin taken from him "through a hack perpetrated by Pinsky and his gang of digital bandits."

According to the lawsuit, Pinsky was 15 at the time Terpin lost his money in 2018 through a so-called SIM swap, a sophisticated hack in which a victim's cellphone is accessed to obtain personal information that can help access cryptocurrency accounts.

The lawsuit, which is ongoing, alleges that Pinsky and his associates amassed more than $100 million through crypto hacks. Pinsky began representing himself last year because he could no longer afford his lawyers. He has since gotten other lawyers.

Pinsky and his new lawyers could not be reached.

Another person involved in taking Terpin's money was Nichola Truglia, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud last year in federal court in Manhattan.

Terpin has successfully sued Truglia in California for more than $70 million.

Twitter: @jonbandler

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Virginia men busted in Irvington robbery plot targeting cryptocurrency