Business 30 May 2018

Dan Taylor

Alabama regulators ‘crypto sweep’ 5 firms over fraud claims

The Alabama Security Commission (ASC) has sent cease and desist letters to five cryptocurrency companies suspected of violating securities laws, as part of a wider crackdown known as ‘Operation Crypto-Sweep.’

The letters have targeted five companies in the blockchain space, including blockchain startups, as well as ICOs targeting residents within Alabama.

Working jointly with regulators nationwide under the umbrella of the North American Securities Administrators Association, the ASC described the measures as necessary to “protect Alabamians” from the risks of fraud. Joseph Borg, director of the ASC, said that the risk of fraud from ICOs and other cryptocurrency investments was a significant threat to retail investors.

“Fraudulent activity involving ICOs and cryptocurrency-related investment products is a significant threat to Main Street investors in Alabama,” Borg said, noting that the commission was “committed to swiftly and effectively protecting investors from schemes and scams involving these products.”

While the ASC only holds jurisdiction in Alabama, three of the cease and desist letters went to Los Angeles based firms, accused of promoting ICOs and cryptocurrency schemes within the state.

Amongst them is Extrabit Ltd., a company which claims to mine cryptocurrency, and allegedly offered half price access to its EXB token to investors—a move described by regulators as an illegitimate securities offering. Similarly, crypto lending platform Leverage was accused of offering unlicensed securities, with Pool Trade the third sanctioned firm from California.

Meanwhile, Miami-based Platinum Coin was found to be promising a 320% return to investors annually, promises that were deemed ‘unrealistic’ by the regulator. The final firm hit with a cease and desist notice was Chain Group Escrow, a cryptocurrency escrow platform.

These are the latest efforts from state-level regulators in the U.S. to clamp down on suspected fraudulent cryptocurrency businesses. In South Carolina, the Office of the Attorney General has served similar notices on firms like Shipchain, the blockchain logistics startup. Meanwhile, in North Carolina, regulators took steps to crack down on crypto mining firm Power Mining Pool.

It comes as the latest wave of enforcement action from regulators, keen to clean up the cryptocurrency and ICO space. With levels of detected fraudulent activity in the space reaching all-time highs in 2017, the developments come amidst a raft of similar measures from securities authorities nationwide.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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