A 56-year old man from the city of Napier in New Zealand has plead guilty to multiple charges of blackmail following his attempts to extort several major companies in the country with bitcoin.
Gregory David O’Neill was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison by the Napier District Court yesterday after previously pleading guilty to eight charges of blackmail, reports the NZHerald.
O’Neill sent letters to several unidentified major companies in New Zealand, purporting to be a group that would carry out threats against these companies unless a bitcoin ransom was paid.
The reported threat was a sabotage campaign with no other details known. The extortionist had also threatened to contact media entities to inform them of these threats if demands weren’t met.
One of these letters, dated August 14 last year, was read to the court by the presiding Judge Geoff Rea.
An excerpt from the letter read:
The contents of this letter are to be taken seriously, we are absolutely determined in our demands and all threats will be carried out if our demands are not met. We have no hesitation at all following through with our threat and will not hesitate to do so.
The letter demanded ransom deposits of 100 bitcoins, and a full payment of 500 bitcoins by September’s end. O’Neill’s letter then claimed to carry out the threat if the full payment wasn’t made by the deadline, stating it would then cost the company 1000 bitcoins to stop the attack. The letter also stated that ‘the group’ would carry out the attack if any of the bitcoins or the extortionist’s bitcoin address and wallet were monitored.
Defending lawyer Eric Forster summed up the extortionist demands as “fanciful”, adding that O’Neill had no intention of carrying out his threats if the companies didn’t turn in the ransom. Judge Rea ruled that the companies were entitled to take the threats seriously, even if O’Neill had no intention or the means to carry them out.
The court has also concealed all details of the companies targeted by O’Neill for his bitcoin ransom demands, including their names and types of business.
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