Court Acquits Man of Cryptocurrency Theft Charges


The B.C. Supreme Court case of a man found not guilty of theft highlights the complexities associated with recovering cryptocurrency. Judge Ward Branch noted that, since cryptocurrency is virtual, it can be difficult to trace and control its chain of possession. He stated that authorities must “adjust to these new realities and find ways to show the court whose hands the cryptocurrency has migrated to.”

Branch found Orion Alexander Holtby innocent of theft, false pretences, and defrauding Joelle Oman, as he had reasonable doubt on all three charges. He urged Holtby to help Oman access her cryptocurrency, suggesting it would be a way to honour the former relationship between them.

The case began when Holtby and Oman reconnected on social media in 2021. Oman had invested a large portion of her money in digital currency, however, she had started to distrust the person helping her. Holtby offered assistance, and arrangements were made to transfer her currency into a new account set up with him. She was unable to access the account and went to the police.

Branch expressed concerns about Oman’s reliability, noting that she was careless with her evidence. He noted that, while it was likely that Holtby took the cryptocurrency, there was reasonable doubt. Moreover, Holtby was in treatment for addiction at the time, which could explain a communication breakdown. The coins may have been simply “orphaned” in the account under Oman’s name, Branch said.

Ultimately, Branch concluded that he did not have enough evidence to prove that Holtby had taken control over Oman’s coins. He encouraged both parties to consider taking appropriate advice from their counsel to resolve the issue.

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