The former CEO of a block reward mining and trading scam that defrauded thousands of investors has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and faces 20 years behind bars.
Marco Ruiz Ochoa joined IcomTech in 2018 as CEO, joining founder David Carmona and three others in running the company until his replacement in 2019. Authorities said the five solicited investment by making false promises of guaranteed daily returns from purported digital asset trading and mining.
However, according to the U.S. Justice Department, the company didn’t engage in any revenue-generating activity. Instead, its executives used the money from some of its investors to pay out earlier investors in a Ponzi scheme fashion.
Ochoa led a nationwide campaign of lavish expos and community presentations in which they misled prospective investors with promises of financial freedom. Like most scammers, the team showed up at these events in luxury cars, expensive jewelry, and designer clothes to exude wealth “and exhibit their purportedly legitimate success from IcomTech.”
When the “rob Peter to pay Paul” Ponzi scheme started to crumble, the IcomTech team began to frustrate the investors through withdrawal delays, excuses, and hidden fees.
In late 2018, the team launched “Icoms,” a worthless native token they said would shoot up once companies started accepting it as payment for goods and services. When all failed, the company stopped making any payments to investors and it collapsed by the end of 2019.
Ochoa pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of 20 years behind bars.
“IcomTech was one of these large-scale copycat cryptocurrency scams and Ochoa, as the purported CEO, played an important role taking IcomTech to scale and ultimately harming more victims. Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that we are coming after all of those who seek to exploit cryptocurrency to commit fraud,” commented U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.
The guilty plea comes a day after the Southern District of New York sentenced Pablo Rodriguez to prison for 12 years over a similar scam. Rodriguez founded AirBit Club, a con that guaranteed returns from block reward mining and trading. Earlier this month, the co-founder of one of the largest-ever scams, OneCoin, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his $4 billion scam role.
Watch: Think of Bitcoin mining as financial self-discipline
New to blockchain? Check out CoinGeek’s Blockchain for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about blockchain technology.