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Justice Department Charges Nine in Crypto Ponzi Schemes

The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that the agency had filed charges against nine individuals for operating two crypto Ponzi schemes, IcomTech and Forcount, also known as Weltsys.

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

According to the DOJ, IcomTech and Forcount were both purported cryptocurrency mining and trading companies that promised investors profits in exchange for purchasing cryptocurrency-related investment products. Victims invested using cash, checks, wire transfers, and actual cryptocurrency.

In the first indictment, the DOJ accused David Carmona, Marco Ruiz Ochoa, Moses Valdez, Juan Arellano, David Brend, and Gustavo Rodriguez of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their involvement with IcomTech. The scheme, the agency says, ran from mid-2018 to late 2019.

In the second indictment, the DOJ accused Francisley Da Silva, Juan Tacuri, and Antonia Perez Hernandez of the same for their involvement with Forcount, which ran an alleged Ponzi scheme from mid-2017 to late 2021. Silva and Tacuri, are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“The founders and promoters of each scheme falsely promised their respective victims, among other things, that profits from the companies’ cryptocurrency trading and mining would result in guaranteed daily returns on victims’ investments and doubling those investments within six months,” the agency said.

Prosecutors allege neither company was actually trading or mining cryptocurrency. They used funds from victims to pay other victims, promote the global scheme with “lavish” expo presentations to lure in new victims, and enrich themselves.

The DOJ says the promoters of the schemes claimed that these tokens, known as “Icoms” and “Mindexcoin,” would eventually be worth a significant amount of money. In reality, the agency says, they were essentially worthless, resulting in financial loss to victims.

“While Victims saw ‘profits’ accumulate on the schemes’ respective online portals, most victims were unable to withdraw any of these so-called profits and ultimately lost their entire investments,” prosecutors said. “By contrast, IcomTech and Forcount’s promoters siphoned off, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in victim funds, which they withdrew as cash, spent on promotional expenses for the schemes, and used for personal expenditures such as luxury goods and real estate.”

The case is being handled by the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.

“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,” Homeland Security Special Agent Ivan J. Arvelo said. “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.”

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