Founder of $90M digital currency hedge fund faces 20 years after guilty plea

The founder of a digital currency hedge fund that allegedly stole tens of millions of dollars from investors has pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud. Stefan He Qin, the founder of Virgil Capital, faces 20 years behind bars for his crime.

Qin, an Australian national, founded Virgil Sigma Fund LP in 2016 as a digital currency hedge fund. He also founded VQR Multistrategy Fund LP in February 2020, yet another hedge fund but whose day-to-day running he wasn’t involved in.

Virgil Sigma purported to earn profits through digital currency arbitrage. Qin claimed to be using a trading algorithm that took advantage of price differences in different exchanges for a number of top digital currencies. He touted the fund’s strategy as “market neutral,” claiming it was making money whether prices moved up or down.

The 24-year-old claimed to have more than $90 million in investors’ funds in Virgil Sigma. He further claimed to have been profitable in every month since August 2016, except for March 2017.

As the U.S. Department of Justice revealed in its press release, Qin had been lying to investors about where he directed their funds. The DoJ claims he used the money for his personal needs, investing in illiquid assets such as real estate and in other digital currency ventures not related to arbitrage opportunities, such as in ICOs.

To cover up his tracks, he misrepresented his fund’s accounts to investors, leading them to believe that it was raking in millions every month. For instance, in February and April 2017, he claimed to have generated 48.7% and 35.5% in returns, respectively.

In the summer of 2020, Qin started running into problems when investors demanded redemption of their investments. To cover for this, he attempted to steal assets from his other fund, VQR, to cover for the deficit.

Homeland Special Investigations’ special agent Peter Fitzhugh remarked, “In today’s technological world, there are increasingly more opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of people, and with Qin pleading guilty to his deceitful acts, HSI and our partners remind those who attempt to defraud victims in any manner, your fraud will be uncovered and you will be brought to justice.”

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