NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. entrepreneur and cryptocurrency investor Michael Terpin won $75.8 million in a civil judgment against a 21-year-old man who Terpin said was part of a scheme that defrauded him of digital currencies, court documents showed on Friday.
California Superior Court last week ordered Manhattan resident Nicholas Truglia to pay Terpin the amount in compensatory and punitive damages, one of the largest court judgments awarded to an individual in the cryptocurrency space and highlights crime in the sector.
Losses from cryptocurrency theft and fraud surged in the first quarter of the year to $1.2 billion, or 70 percent of the level for all of 2018, cybersecurity firm CipherTrace said.
Terpin told Reuters late on Thursday he filed a civil complaint in January after three million tokens were stolen from his cellphone account in early 2018.
At the time of the theft, the three million tokens were worth $23.8 million, according to a separate complaint filed by Terpin with U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in August. In that complaint, Terpin sued AT&T as his service provider.
Terpin’s tokens were stolen when Truglia and other participants fraudulently transferred Terpin’s phone number to their control. This allowed them to reset passwords and access online accounts.
Truglia was arrested in November for six other crimes and law enforcement is continuing to investigate the case. Terpin said he is preparing action against other gang members.
According to an affidavit by Truglia’s former friend Chris David, Truglia before his arrest lived a life of luxury including private jets, sports cars and Rolex watches.
Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Cynthia Osterman