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According to a complaint filed in the US District Court for the North District of Illinois last month, vandals have been attacking bitcoin ATMs in the Midwestern US with a hammer on behalf of other bitcoin ATM owners. The defendants, Andrew Konja, Alvin Konja, Sam Konja, and Odai Mabroukare, are allegedly conducting the scheme in order to eradicate competition in the area.
Andrew Konja reportedly owned his own bitcoin ATM company which he ended up merging into Bitexpress, a Philadelphia-based ATM operator. These businesses owners reportedly hired goons to do their dirty work.
Through the destruction of “approximately 70 bitcoin ATMs”, the defendants wanted to put the competition at a disadvantage. By rendering bitcoin ATMs useless by smashing the screen, competitors were forced to repair them.
Out of the nearly 70 smashed bitcoin ATMs, “nearly 20” belonged to Bitcoin of America. The plaintiff, SandP Solutions, Inc., the company that does business as Bitcoin of America, alleges the crimes were committed over a nine-month period, and its ongoing.
In some instances, after getting a bitcoin ATM destroyed, the owner would be approached by goons offering to replace the damaged machine with their own.
Intimidation & Extortion
In the complaint, we can see that two major metropolitan areas were targeted: Chicago and Detroit. The complaint, however, wasn’t just about vandalism. The lawsuit also claims threats were made, and bitcoin ransoms demanded.
It’s alleged the defendants also blackmailed their rivals in order to get what they wanted. In the complaint, one of these instances is reported:
On at least one occasion, one of the Defendants, acting alone or in concert with others, told a competitor that he would be shot in the head if he continued to operate bitcoin ATMs in the Detroit metropolitan area
To avoid getting caught by authorities, the defendants and their goons reportedly coordinated the attacks with the use of “sites that automatically destroy posted messages after the passage of time”. No specific websites were mentioned.
Bitcoin of America wants three times the cost of the damages, plus court and attorney fees. According to Motherboard, that means the Konjas will need to pay roughly $600.000, without including the fees.
Image from Shutterstock.