Orlando, Florida. – Cryptocurrency has been heralded as the future of finance, but just like the Wild West before it, it seems that outlaws are lurking in the shadows hoping to take your money.
Federal prosecutors have charged three men living in Central Florida: Ramón Antonio Pérez Arias, Juan Antonio Tacuri Fajardo and José Ramiro Coronado Reyes. Together with Brazilian man Francisley Valdevino da Silva, they are accused of pulling off an $8 million crypto Ponzi scheme through a platform called Forcount.
“The SEC has an excellent track record,” said Albert Yonfa, a partner at Nejame Law, “they don’t pursue these types of cases unless they have substantial evidence that it was, in fact, a fraudulent endeavor.
The Securities and Exchange Commission says da Silva is the “self-proclaimed ‘leader of the Ponzi schemers’.” According to prosecutors, the group used Forcount to draw in investors with the promise of cryptocurrency riches, but what they were really selling was a classic pyramid fraud.
“It’s true that some people have made a lot of money from cryptocurrencies, but recently people have also lost millions of dollars, so there is so much hype around this, sadly it can be used to exploit people,” said tech expert Tom Jelneck from Orlando.
Prosecutors say Forcount’s app and website were launched in July 2017 and crashed in late 2020. During that time, they claim the group only relied on new investors to make it appear as if existing users were getting returns, a clear indication of a Ponzi scheme.
Investigators additionally allege the four suspects were using the proceeds to purchase luxury items, homes and vehicles. Jelneck recommends investors do their research and not be swayed by scammers’ tricks. “I think it’s important to exercise a lot of common sense, and if something seems too good to be true, it’s likely a bad idea.
The suspects are facing counts including wire fraud and money laundering. Each could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted.