George Swinton Cottrell, senior aide to former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, pled guilty to running a ‘dark web’ money-laundering scam today. Under a plea-bargain agreement, Federal prosecutors reduced his charges to one count of wire fraud from the 21 charges he originally faced. Cottrell will be sentenced in March in the US District Court, facing a potential maximum 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.
Aside from being a senior aide to Nigel Farage, Cottrell’s UKIP connections include his father Alexander, the 3rd Baron Hesketh who defected to UKIP from the Tories in 2011 and has since donated large amounts to the party. This, not surprisingly, will be a gigantic embarrassment to Hesketh, UKIP and Farage himself.
Cottrell was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in June after attending the Republican National Convention with Nigel Farage, something Farage has been extraordinarily keen not to mention. Unfortunately for Farage, UKIP and the 3rd Baron Hesketh the embarrassment doesn’t end there.
Cottrell admits fronting a 2014 ‘dark web’ con trick. Someone known as ‘The Banker’ advertised money-laundering service via dark-web site the Onion Router. Some customers from Phoenix, Arizona duly responded whom the mysterious Banker directed to the equally mysterious ‘Bill’, later outed as Cottrell.
According to Cottrell’s own admission to the court, he offered:
Ways to transfer large amounts of cash out of the United States to avoid reporting requirements and disguising proceeds from criminal activity as legitimate business income for tax purposes.
He also admitted:
I falsely claimed that I would launder the criminal proceeds through my bank accounts for a fee. Rather than launder any of the money, though, I intended to retain the money.
In short, Cottrell intended to defraud drug traffickers of their ill-gotten gains and hope they wouldn’t take action against him. Not the safest or, frankly, smartest way to make a quick buck.
Cottrell communicated with them via ‘Cryptocat,’ offering his money-laundering skills and met them in Las Vegas where, by his own admission, they transferred $20,000 to an associate in Colorado who then transferred it back. Having shown his clients his system worked (deeply incriminating himself in the process), Cottrell then tried to blackmail them.
He demanded they pay him 130 Bitcoin, then worth around $80,000, to stop him revealing their drug trafficking and money-laundering to the proper authorities. Unfortunately for our aristocratic master criminal, he didn’t know he was already speaking to the proper authorities.
UKIP do love to rant about freedom of movement and unrestrained migration. They’re also very fond of touting themselves as being the new wave set to sweep away the Westminster old guard’s entrenched dishonesty and institutionalised corruption. So it’s probably somewhat embarrassing that someone so highly connected within UKIP has been proven not only to be a crook, but an incredibly inept one at that.
Cottrell now faces up to 20 years of his American hosts considering him an undesirable immigrant. Although, to balance that out, his own freedom of movement is likely to be somewhat curtailed.
He won’t have much in a Federal Penitentiary.