S.E.C. charges 5 for illegally promoting $2 billion Bitconnect Ponzi

Regulation

Three years and some unforgettable memes later, the Securities and Exchange Commission has announced that 5 individuals will face charges relating to promoting the Bitconnect Ponzi scheme. 

“The SEC’s complaint alleges that these promoters offered and sold the securities without registering the securities offering with the Commission, and without being registered as broker-dealers with the Commission, as required by the federal securities laws,” the release reads.

The promoters, including Trevon Brown, Craig Grant, Ryan Maasen, and Michael Noble are said to have “advertised the merits of investing in BitConnect’s lending program to prospective investors, including by creating “testimonial” style videos and publishing them on YouTube, sometimes multiple times a day.” In exchange for their promotional efforts, the influencers and representatives were paid on a commission basis.

The release also named Joshua Jeppesen as “a liaison between BitConnect and promoters.”

Shortly after the release, Trevon Brown (better known as Trevon James) posted a Tweet in which he did not deny the charges and said that the community would “rally” around him.

“We will seek to hold accountable those who illegally profit by capitalizing on the public’s interest in digital assets,” said Lara Shalov Mehraban, Associate Regional Director of SEC’s New York Regional Office in the release. 

The company, which collapsed in 2018, was widely accused on being a ponzi scheme from several analysts and observers, including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. Last year, an Australian man was charged in connection with the company’s fraud. Many will be familiar with the project due to a now-legendary presentation from investor Carlos Matos:

Multiple crypto lawyers have taken to Twitter to speculate on the long-term ramifications of this case. Gabriel Shapiro noted that even though the S.E.C. is targeting a known fraud in Bitconnect, it could end up being a “blueprint” for action against other DAOs. 

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