U.S. Justice Department Charges Nine Individuals with Running Crypto Ponzi Schemes

U.S. Justice Department Charges Nine Individuals with Running Crypto Ponzi Schemes

  • The U.S. Justice Department charged nine individuals for running two crypto Ponzi schemes from 2017 to 2021.
  • Founders and promoters of IcomTech and Forcount, later known as Weltsys, are also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, as well as for making false statements.
  • The two companies offered potential investors crypto trading, investing, and mining services. 
  • The perpetrators instead took the investors’ money to pay other investors. They also bought themselves luxurious goods and real estate.

The U.S. Justice Department has charged nine individuals who ran two crypto Ponzi schemes, engaged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and made false statements. The agency announced the charges on Wednesday, December 14.

The founders and promoters of IcomTech and Forcount, later known as Weltsys, ran illegal businesses from 2017 to the end of 2021. IcomTech’s David Carmona, Marco Ruiz Ochoa, Moses Valdez, Juan Arellano, David Brend, and Gustavo Rodriguez are accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Forcount’s Francisley Da Silva, Juan Tacuri, and Antonia Perez Hernandez are also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

Officials say that the people involved “fraudulently induced their victims to invest in sham cryptocurrency activities.” These activities included crypto trading and mining, neither of which they actually did.  Instead, in a classic Ponzi scheme style, the perpetrators used existing investors’ money to pay other investors to “further promote the schemes and to enrich themselves.” The criminals allegedly purchased a variety of luxury goods and real estate.

“With these two indictments, this Office is sending a message to all cryptocurrency scammers. We are coming for you. Stealing is stealing, even when dressed up in the jargon of cryptocurrency,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.

When investors started doubting their investments’ legitimacy and withdrawing their funds, they were met with excuses and delays. Both firms introduced their proprietary tokens, known as “Icoms” and “MindexCoin.” These dubious tokens were offered to the investors instead of their funds. Eventually, the coins became worthless, and the project masterminds ghosted the investors.

According to the DOJ, both companies traveled worldwide, giving presentations about their investment products. They claimed that investors could double their money in six months to achieve “financial freedom.” The perpetrators would appear at large-scale promotion events in “expensive cars and wearing luxury clothing to exhibit their purportedly legitimate success from the schemes.”

“The excitement around cryptocurrency and the potential to make huge profits attracted would-be investors to the alleged schemes run by the individuals indicted today. With high end clothes and cars, these individuals are alleged to have presented a life of luxury to potential investors. But instead of a lucrative investment opportunity, the victims were fleeced of their savings and left with nothing to show for it,” said Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo.

On the Flipside

  • The exact amount of money stolen by the perpetrators is unknown.
  • The perpetrators have yet to be convicted.

Why You Should Care

The crypto industry is still full of fraudsters and scammers. Investors should be careful when deciding where to invest in the digital asset market.

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