SEC charges former pastor involved in $500,000 digital currency fraud

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed charges against two Texans who allegedly defrauded their investors in a digital currency scam. The two held a token sale for a worthless digital currency, misleading investors to believe that it was backed by water products from a company they owned. They also raised money for a digital currency mining operation, but never purchased the mining equipment.

The SEC alleged that Larry Donnell Leonard and his wife Shuwana Leonard raised close to $500,000 from 500 investors. They used a variety of ways, the first of which was selling their own digital currency known as TeshuaCoin. They misled the investors to believe that the currency worked just like Bitcoin. What’s more, unlike Bitcoin, it was backed by water products from Teshuater LLC., an alkaline water company they owned. This was however just a marketing tactic as TeshuaCoin was neither functional nor backed by any physical product.

Despite all the loopholes, the couple was able to raise $170,395.20 from the sale of the tokens against an ambitious $20 million target. Leonard was a former pastor in Texas and he took advantage of the trust the community bestowed upon him to conduct fraud. According to the watchdog, he mostly targeted the African-American community.

Leonard also lured investment into a digital currency mining operation, raising $25,544.96 for this venture. He failed to disclose to the investors about the speculative nature of mining, the SEC claimed. Moreover, he never channeled any of the funds into mining, instead opting to make speculative options trades.

The third scam involved attracting investment into his alkaline water company, Teshuater LLC. He allegedly sold fake stock certificates, luring the unsuspecting investors with promises of a 3,000% short-term investment return. This was his most successful scam and it raised him $291,044.07.

The SEC charged the two with violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act. It’s seeking the disgorgement of all the ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, permanent injunctions against them and civil penalties.

The regulator has continued to stamp out fraud from the digital currencies industry, charging several companies that it believes have broken securities laws. It’s currently embroiled in cases with Telegram over its $1.7 billion token sale as well as Kik, which it accuses of selling unregistered securities.

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