On Monday, the FBI issued arrest warrants against two men involved in the armed robbery of an elderly North Carolina couple.
According to the police, Elmer Ruben Castro and Remy Ra St. Felix held the couple hostage and stole more than $156,000 in cryptocurrency.
Thieves Pose As Construction Workers To Rob Elderly Couple
The incident took place on April 12 at the couple’s Durham home, where the two men pretending to be construction workers entered claiming they needed to inspect water pipes for damage.
Federal prosecutors allege that Castro and St. Felix, who were dressed in reflective vets and khaki pants, told the couple that they needed to walk around the property to look for any damage caused to the pipes.
At 9 AM, the men knocked back on the door a second time and when the wife answered, forced their way in, restrained the couple, and proceeded to rob them, according to the information provided by the FBI and the reports by Durham Police Department.
Castro and St. Felix, who were armed with handguns, zip-tied the couple and threatened to kill them if they didn’t give away the password to their Coinbase account. The suspects threatened to cut off the husband’s toes and genitalia and shoot him, before raping and killing his wife.
According to a complaint filed on the day of the robbery in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, a third man was also involved in the crime. The FBI alleges that Jarod Gabriel Seemungal, the third suspect, was responsible for finding the victims and was aware of their cryptocurrency possessions.
Suspects Had Information About the Couple Two Months Prior to the Kidnapping
The complaint says that the suspects began looking for the victims as early as February and even had the image of the license plate number for the husband’s car and his driver’s license. Messages sent between the men involved revealed information about how much cryptocurrency the couple had and the location of their wallets.
The thieves rented a black BMW SUV from Florida and drove to North Carolina two days before the robbery. The men stayed at the Millenium Hotel in Durham and conducted surveillance at the couple’s home each of the three days before the kidnapping took place.
The FBI said one of the men drove the suspected vehicle to a Walmart in Durham and purchased the costumes that allowed them to rob the couple. A debit card linked to the man showed the purchase of a clipboard, reflective vest, sunglasses, and a pair of khaki pants. Surveillance footage from inside the Walmart on Glen School Road showed two men purchasing the items.
Culprits Remotely Accessed the Husband’s Coinbase Wallet to Steal Crypto
The complaint explains how the robbery took place. Castro dragged the wife, aged 76, by her legs into the bathroom while Felix rushed the husband, also 76, to the home office with a gun pointed to his head and forced him to log into the computer which had access to the Coinbase wallet.
The husband was forced to install a remote desktop application called AnyDesk, through which the third man – Seemugal – took control of the computer. The FBI said Seemugal, who was on the phone with Felix, already knew details of the account without being told.
Authorities believe that the husband’s email account was compromised in the past, giving the thieves a tip about his Coinbase wallet before the robbery took place.
With the help of Seemugal, Felix proceeded to steal $156,853 worth of cryptocurrencies from the 76-year-old’s wallet. During the 45-minute ordeal, the men transferred the tokens in three separate transactions to another wallet. A fourth attempt was flagged and blocked by Coinbase on the grounds of suspicious activity.
As soon as the funds were moved, the thieves smashed the couple’s computer and mobile phones and put the husband in the bathroom with his wife, before fleeing the scene. The couple suffered minor but non-life-threatening injuries.
The couple managed to seek help by getting to their neighbor’s house and calling the police. They were then transported to a nearby hospital, where they received treatment for the injuries.
Federal prosecutors filed charges against Seemungal and St. Felix with kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Arrest warrants were issued for both men on Thursday, but a criminal complaint or warrant was not listed for Castro.