At least three people have been accused of smashing dozens of bitcoin ATMs in the the Midwestern US.
According to court documents filed in the US District Court for the North District of Illinois and obtained by CoinDesk, Andrew Konja, Alvin Konja and Odai Mabroukare are being accused of perpetrating a "scheme of intimidation and destruction" aimed to force out competing ATM operators in Detroit and Chicago.
Their goal, the lawsuit alleges, is to put other operators at a disadvantage through extortion and destruction of property.
The plaintiff in the case – SandP Solutions, Inc, which does business as Bitcoin of America – filed suit late last month, and is being represented by attorney William P Suriano of Riverside, Illinois.
The defendants are accused of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Among the allegations, is that those involved in the scheme attempted to extort other bitcoin ATM operators by requesting digital currency payments in return for protection. The complaint cites one bitcoin ATM operator who paid the demanded sum.
In total, the plaintiff reports that "approximately 70 bitcoin ATMs" have been smashed, including "nearly 20" operated by Bitcoin of America.
The complaint explains:
"Plaintiff has had bitcoin ATM machines smashed in both the Chicago and Detroit metropolitan areas. This is most frequently done by an individual using a hammer or other object to smash the screen on a bitcoin ATM, making it unusable for a significant period of time. The screen must then be replaced at significant expense before the smashed bitcoin ATM can be used again."
The defendants would then go on to offer to repair the broken ATMs owned by affected operators. Further, according to the complaint, the alleged scheme continues to this day.
"This scheme began approximately nine months ago and is on-going," attorneys for the plaintiff wrote.
Andrew Konja, according to the complaint, had run his own ATM business "which he sold or which was merged into Bitexpress", a reference to a Philadelphia-based ATM operator.
Bitexpress did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A full copy of the complaint can be found below:
Complaint (1) by CoinDesk on Scribd