Prosecutors in Brooklyn seized nearly two dozen web domains associated with a scheme known as “pig butchering,” in which scammers strike online conversations with unsuspecting victims, gain their trust and then steer them into bogus cryptocurrency investments.

Brooklyn-based victims were scammed out of at least $5 million after they were convinced to invest in cryptocurrency by someone they met through a random text message, a dating site or through a WhatsApp group, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

The investments appeared to show tremendous returns, but when the victims tried to withdraw substantial sums they were blocked from their accounts and lost their entire investment, authorities say.

The Brooklyn DA’s office says it seized and 20 other active associated domains in connection with the investigation into the scheme. Three virtual servers hosting those sites have also been seized.

Authorities warn it’s a lucrative and growing scam with victims in multiple states. The masterminds rely on human trafficking victims to help facilitate the scams at compounds in Southeast Asia, prosecutors say.

“Pig butchering is a growing type of scam that defrauds residents of Brooklyn and the entire country out of billions of dollars every year,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “My office’s strategy is to disrupt these schemes by seizing and shutting down their online infrastructure, and to educate the public about ways to avoid becoming a victim. Awareness and education are the first and best lines of defense against these prolific scams. Investment returns that seem too good to be true are almost always just that – fake.”

The U.S. Justice Department last year announced it had seized virtual currency worth an estimated $112 million linked to pig butchering scams.

“The victims in Pig Butchering schemes are referred to as ‘pigs’ by the scammers because the scammers will use elaborate storylines to ‘fatten up’ victims into believing they are in a romantic or otherwise close personal relationship,” according to one affidavit for a search warrant in Los Angeles.

PHOTO: Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez speaks on stage during 38th Annual Brooklyn Tribute To Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Jan. 15, 2024, in New York.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez speaks on stage during 38th Annual Brooklyn Tribute To Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Jan. 15, 2024, in New York.

Jason Mendez/Getty Images

The victims in the Brooklyn investigation include a 51-year-old woman who lost $23,000 after she was added to online chat groups discussing crypto investments, according to prosecutors. She downloaded an app from Coinformat, made eight deposits and believed her investment grew to nearly $400,000. When she tried to withdraw her initial investment, she was told by chat administrators that she had to pay taxes. When she complained, she was blocked from the chat group and her money disappeared.

Prosecutors said her investment moved through multiple crypto addresses before it was deposited into an account at a foreign exchange and cashed out by someone possibly in China.

The DA’s office shared several warning signs of someone trying to lure a victim into a cryptocurrency scam. These include getting a “wrong message” text from a stranger trying to spark a friendship and talking about how much money they’ve made from a cryptocurrency investment. Potential victims are also added to group chats on WhatsApp or Telegram or solicited through Facebook by someone bragging about their crypto investments.

Authorities warn people not to trust crypto investment opportunities that seem too good to be true and not to make crypto investments based on advice from strangers. Avoid downloading investment apps from unverified crypto investment websites, they say.

Those in New York can check whether a cryptocurrency exchange is licensed to operate in the state by going to the Department of Financial Services’ website or calling the department’s hotline at 800-342-3736. People who believe they may have been victims are urged to contact their local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI or report it to

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