Brooklyn Park Police Department

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Region

North America

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Industry

Public Sector

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Products Used

TRM Forensics

Problem

Scammers used phishing techniques to target elderly residents of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, stealing tens of thousands of dollars of life savings and upending peoples’ lives

Results

  • Returned lost funds to victim within two months
  • Recovered $70,000 across cases in 2023
  • Set state precedent for blockchain intelligence

Brooklyn Park is a suburb in Minnesota, located on the banks of the Mississippi River. This predominantly blue-collar, middle class community is a municipality outside Minneapolis, and is proudly served by the Brooklyn Park Police Department. 

In recent years, the Brooklyn Park PD has seen a spike in crimes targeted towards Brooklyn Park’s more vulnerable, elderly population—primarily through pig butchering investment scams, phishing, and malware attacks. And since 2022, Sergeant Jake Tuzinksi (a patrol sergeant with the city of Brooklyn Park) has been on the forefront of combating these crypto-based crimes.

From life savings to lives destroyed

In the Midwest—and particularly for victims living on fixed income in a small community like Brooklyn Park—even crimes exploiting seemingly “small” amounts of money can completely upend lives. “These $10,000, $20,000 Bitcoin ATM scams—they’re the everyday, basic cases that destroy people on an individual level,” Tuzinski explained. “It’s worth it to pursue these relatively low dollar crimes . . . [because they] make a direct impact.”

Tuzinski recently worked on a case involving a woman who was preparing to undergo surgery, when she fell victim to a pop-up phishing scam. This led her to unknowingly provide sensitive financial information to a scammer who was posing as a customer service representative. The scammer was then able to obtain remote access to her phone and coerce her into depositing $10,000 into a Bitcoin ATM.

“[The victim] was retired, and on a super fixed income,” said Tuzinski. “She was pretty devastated and grief-stricken by it.” But fortunately, Tuzinski and his team had access to TRM Labs’ blockchain tracing software, enabling them to follow the money from the victim to an international exchange. 

After gathering details about the scam, removing malware from the victim’s devices, and obtaining all the relevant transaction information from the victim, Tuzinski used TRM Forensics to trace the missing funds—which moved across blockchains and exchanges. “Through the use of TRM’s tool, I was able to trace the funds, and see that they crossed chains and hopped over to another blockchain into an exchange,” he said. Leveraging TRM’s attribution, Tuzinski was able to identify that the funds were being held in a wallet at a Malta-based exchange, which was willing to freeze the victim's proceeds.

Using blockchain intelligence to restore justice to scam victims

Because Tuzinski was able to use TRM to track every step of the funds’ movements, he was ultimately able to seize the value of the lost funds from the exchange—as well as the fees incurred from the Bitcoin ATM—and return them to the victim within two months. As a result, the victim was able to complete and pay for her surgery.

Tuzinski noted that scams like this are becoming increasingly more common in his district—with bad actors even going so far as to create fake websites and phone numbers that mimic real companies, tricking victims into giving up their private information.

“I think it's critically important to investigate these cases, because these victims are losing a lot of money,” said Tuzinski. Over the course of 2023, Brooklyn Park PD was able to recover and return roughly $70,000 to victims across several different cases. “[Being able to return these funds] was very impactful on their lives, what it meant for their financial future, and for their family's future going forward.”

The importance of continuing crypto education

Tuzinski continues to lead crypto investigations in Brooklyn Park, and has also created training and continuing education courses for officers throughout Minnesota—which include guidance on serving legal process, securing warrants, and important policy considerations for investigators.

Tuzinski is also a strong advocate for officers and investigators becoming as knowledgeable about the cryptocurrency space as possible, so that they can better serve their constituents. “It takes a village to solve cryptocurrency crimes,” he explained. “There are thousands of investigators, lawyers, prosecutors, and local agencies you can rely on for help and assistance—as well as public partnerships. And it's incumbent on us [as law enforcement officers] to form relationships with these companies who are able to assist us with the expertise and the technical details of these investigations.”

— — — — —

If you’re a law enforcement officer looking to level up your crypto investigation skills, be sure to check out TRM’s comprehensive collection of training and certification courses through TRM Academy.

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