A cryptocurrency startup that was once backed by a professional boxer was shut down by authorities in April over accusations of fraud. In the wake, the FBI seized 91,000 ETH worth around $60 million and arrested three men. Those three have now been indicted for securities fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.
Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. put his face and reputation behind Centra Tech, promoting the up-and-coming company. However, things feel apart last month and the company’s founders are now looking at swapping their south Florida homes for prison cells. Raymond Trapani, alleged to be the scam’s mastermind, Robert Farkas and Sohrab “Sam” Sharma have each been charged with securities fraud, two counts of conspiracy and wire fraud.
The scammers went to extreme lengths to concoct a story of having created cutting edge technology, prosecutors said. The trio also reportedly misled investors, stating that they had inked partnerships to offer cryptocurrency debit cards through Visa, MasterCard and The Bancorp. They lied about having secured a money transmitter license and had created a fictitious CEO to perpetrate the fraud. They went so far as to manipulate trading of the crypto in an effort to draw greater interest and boost the coin’s price.
Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami announced of the indictment, “As alleged, the defendants conspired to capitalize on investor interest in the burgeoning cryptocurrency market. Whether traditional or cutting-edge, investment vehicles can’t legally be peddled with falsehoods and lies.”
There has been a global crackdown on cryptocurrency fraud this year, designed to clean up the industry. From Australia to London and from Bulgaria to the South Korea, regulators have taken a strict position against fraudsters and scammers. Fraud has been prevalent in the fiat world since money was first introduced, so it’s logical that cryptocurrency would have to deal with its tribulations, as well. As the industry advances and better oversight is introduced, the space will be cleaned up and lead to greater stability in the markets.
Khuzami added, “While investing in virtual currencies is legal, lying to deceive investors is not.” The criminal masterminds, who flaunted their actions in text messages to each other, each face a minimum of 20 years in prison.