The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took strong stands against crypto-currency fraudsters on Friday. The CFTC announced two investigations into crypto-currency fraud and later issued strong statements.
The first announcement came with the filing of a civil enforcement action against a Colorado bitcoin and binary options fraud scheme. In a statement, the CFTC said this:
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission on January 18, 2018 filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Defendants Dillon Michael Dean of Longmont, Colorado, and his company The Entrepreneurs Headquarters Limited, a UK-registered company. The CFTC Complaint charges the Defendants with engaging in a fraudulent scheme to solicit Bitcoin from members of the public, misrepresenting that customers’ funds would be pooled and invested in products including binary options, making Ponzi-style payments to commodity pool participants from other participants’ funds, misappropriating pool participants’ funds, and failing to register with the CFTC as a Commodity Pool Operator (CPO) and Associated Person of a CPO, as required.
Cryto-currency attracts bad actors
The CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, James McDonald, commented:
Increased public interest in Bitcoin and other virtual currencies has provided new opportunities for bad actors. As alleged in the Complaint, Defendants sought to take advantage of that public interest, offering retail customers the chance to use Bitcoin to invest in binary options, when in reality they were only buying into a Ponzi scheme. As this case shows, the CFTC will continue to take swift action to stop such fraudulent schemes and to hold fraudsters accountable for their misconduct.
The CFTC continued:
Specifically, the Complaint alleges that, from approximately April 2017 through the present, Defendants, who have never been registered with the CFTC in any capacity, have engaged in a fraudulent scheme, through which they solicited at least $1.1 million worth of Bitcoin from more than 600 members of the public. Defendants allegedly promised to convert this Bitcoin into fiat currency to invest on the customers’ behalf in a pooled investment vehicle for trading commodity interests, including trading binary options on an online exchange designated as a contract market by the CFTC. Potential pool participants were solicited to invest with Defendants by false claims of trading expertise and promises of high rates of return. The Complaint further alleges that, rather than convert customers’ Bitcoin to fiat currency to invest in binary options contracts, as promised, Defendants misappropriated their customers’ funds, including by using the funds to pay other customers, in the manner of a Ponzi scheme.
The second enforcement action was initiated against Patrick McDonnell and his company Coin Drop Markets. The CFTC alleged he engaged in crypto-currency fraud:
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission on January 18, 2018, filed a federal civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Defendants Patrick K. McDonnell, of Staten Island, New York, and CabbageTech, Corp. d/b/a Coin Drop Markets (CDM), a New York corporation, charging them with fraud and misappropriation in connection with purchases and trading of Bitcoin and Litecoin.
The CFTC continued:
The CFTC Complaint alleges that from approximately January 2017 to the present, McDonnell and CDM engaged in a deceptive and fraudulent virtual currency scheme to induce customers to send money and virtual currencies to CDM, purportedly in exchange for real-time virtual currency trading advice and for virtual currency purchasing and trading on behalf of the customers under McDonnell’s direction. In fact, as charged in the CFTC Complaint, the supposedly expert, real-time virtual currency advice was never provided, and customers who provided funds to McDonnell and CDM to purchase or trade on their behalf never saw those funds again. In short, McDonnell and CDM used their fraudulent solicitations to obtain and then simply misappropriate customer funds.
The CFTC Complaint further alleges that to conceal their scheme, soon after obtaining customer funds, Defendants removed the website and social media materials from the Internet and ceased communicating with CDM Customers, who lost most if not all of their invested funds due to Defendants’ fraud and misappropriation. The CFTC Complaint also alleges that neither Defendant has ever been registered with the CFTC in any capacity.
SEC and the CFTC look beyond crypto-currency
Following the announcements of these two actions the CFTC and SEC issued this joint statement:
When market participants engage in fraud under the guise of offering digital instruments – whether characterized as virtual currencies, coins, tokens, or the like – the SEC and the CFTC will look beyond form, examine the substance of the activity and prosecute violations of the federal securities and commodities laws.
The Divisions of Enforcement for the SEC and CFTC will continue to address violations and to bring actions to stop and prevent fraud in the offer and sale of digital instruments.