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August 10, 2021

The principles of the Global Trading Club, Mayco Alexis Maldonado Garcia, Cesar Castaneda, and Joel Castaneda Garcia, consented to an order requiring payments totaling $1.75 million in restitution and civil penalties.  The CFTC alleged that the individual falsely represented that GTC employed “master traders” in cryptocurrency transactions, promised returns to customers, and caused misleading trading statements to be posted online.  The order bars the individuals from registering with the CFTC and from trading commodity interests.  CFTC

August 10, 2021

Five companies that operate the BitMEX cryptocurrency platform will pay a total of $100 million to resolve claims that the platform operated a facility to trade or process swaps without being approved as a Designated Contract Market (DCM) or a Swap Execution Facility (SEF), operated as an unregistered futures commission merchant (FCM), and failed to implement anti-money laundering procedures.  HDR Global Trading Limited, 100x Holding Limited, ABS Global Trading Limited, Shine Effort Inc Limited, and HDR Global Services (Bermuda) Limited jointly operated BitMEX, which offered leveraged trading of cryptocurrency derivatives, including to customers in the U.S.  BitMEX acted as a counterparty in certain transactions, and accepted bitcoin to margin digital asset derivative transactions.  BitMEX allowed customers to access its platform and conduct derivative trading without verifying customer identity beyond the collection of an email address, and failed to report suspicious activity as required. As part of the settlement, BitMEX certified that it terminated its U.S. business operations, barred access to the platform by U.S. customers, and had undertaken verification procedures for existing customers.  $50 million of the $100 million penalty will be paid to the CFTC, with $30 million of the remainder paid immediately to FinCEN, and an additional $20 million to FinCEN suspended pending defendants’ undertaking of specific compliance procedures.  CFTC; FinCEN

August 6, 2021

Blockchain Credit Partners, which did business as DeFi Money Market, and its principals, Gregory Keough and Derek Acree, have agreed to disgorge $12.85 million and cease and desist from the unregistered sale of securities using smart contracts and so-called “decentralized finance” (DeFi) technology.  The SEC found that defendants offered and sold mTokens and DMG governance tokens purporting to pay interest and profits, and told purchasers that that DeFi Money Market would pay them those amounts by using investor assets to buy “real world” income-generating assets like car loans. However, these income-generating assets did not generate enough income to cover appreciation of the investors’ principal, largely as a result of the price volatility of the digital assets used to purchase the tokens.  Rather than disclose this to investors, defendants used other funds, including personal funds, to make principal and interest payments for mToken redemptions. Keough and Acree have each also agreed to pay penalties of $125,000.  SEC

July 2, 2021

Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson of Sweden has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $16 million, including several properties and a resort in Thailand, in one of the largest cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes ever prosecuted in the United States.  Starting in 2011 until his arrest in Thailand in 2019, Karlsson induced thousands of investors from around the country and over 45 countries around the world to use cryptocurrency to purchase shares in an entity he called Eastern Metal Securities, by falsely claiming that it was run by award-winning economists and had zero risk of loss.  He then misappropriated at least $1.5 million to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself.  USAO NDCA; DOJ; SEC

June 22, 2021

Loci Inc., whose InnVenn platform provides intellectual property search services for inventors and others users, will pay $7.6 million to resolve SEC charges arising from its unregistered initial coin offering of "LOCIcoins."  In the course of the ICO, Loci and its CEO John Wise allegedly misrepresented the company’s revenues, number of employees, and InnVenn’s user base. SEC

April 8, 2021

Circle Society, Corp. and its owner, David Gilbert Saffron, have been ordered to pay more than $32 million in restitution, disgorgement, and civil monetary penalty for cryptocurrency fraud and misappropriation.  First as an individual, and then through Circle Society, Saffron allegedly solicited millions in Bitcoin and U.S. dollars from at least 179 individuals by making false statements regarding his trading expertise and guaranteed rates of return.  However, rather than trading the fu­nds on foreign currencies and cryptocurrency pairs, Saffron directed­­ portions to his personal cryptocurrency wallet and used other portions to pay prior investors.  CFTC

March 26, 2021

British citizen Benjamin Reynolds, who did business as Control-Finance Limited, has been ordered to pay a total of $571 million – $143 million in restitution and $429 million as a civil penalty – by default judgment in an enforcement action brought by the CFTC.  Reynolds solicited customers on the internet and by e-mail, falsely representing that Control-Finance would engage in virtual currency trades on their behalf, with a guaranteed profit.  Reynolds also created an affiliate marketing network, falsely claiming that he would pay referral bonuses to customers.  In fact, Reynolds made no trades on customers’ behalf, earned no trading profits for them, and paid no referral rewards or bonuses. Over the course of six months in 2017, Reynolds secured at least 22,191 bitcoin, worth $143 million at the time, from more than 1,000 customers worldwide, including at least 169 residing in the U.S.  CFTC

March 19, 2021

The CFTC has ordered digital asset exchange operator Coinbase Inc. to pay a civil monetary penalty of $6.5 million to settle charges of reporting false, misleading, or inaccurate information on the company’s GDAX electronic trading platform, which is published by various reporting firms and used by market participants to gauge the volume and liquidity of digital assets.  The CFTC also found Coinbase vicariously liable for a former employee who placed deceptive orders in Litecoin in order to artificially generate market interest.  CFTC

March 4, 2021

Sohrab Sharma, a co-founder of Centra Tech, which claimed to offer products including a debit card that would allow users to make retail purchases using cryptocurrency, has been sentenced to eight years in prison following his guilty plea to charges arising from Centra’s fraudulent representations to participants in its unregistered initial coin offering of “Centra Tokens” or “CTR tokens,” which raised more than $25 million from victims.  Sharma and his co-defendants falsely claimed that Centra Tech had an experienced executive team, agreements with card issuers, and licenses to operate in 38 states when, in fact, Centra Tech had none of these things.  USAO SDNY

February 23, 2021

Cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex, operated by iFinex, and Tether were ordered to end all trading activity for NY customers and agreed to pay $18.5 million in penalties following an investigation into their handling of customer deposits and withdrawals that resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of customer assets.  Tether was found to have falsely represented that each of its stablecoins was backed one-to-one by U.S. dollars in reserve when, in fact, they were not.  NY
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