US authorities have busted a huge cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, charging 11 people for their role in defrauding retail investors for more than $300m worldwide.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced the charges Monday, which relate to a Ponzi scheme called Forsage that had operated for more than two years. The agency charged the alleged founders of the pyramid scheme as well as several promoters.
Forsage’s website was launched in January 2020, the SEC said, and allowed millions of retail investors to enter into transactions via smart contracts that operated on the Ethereum, Tron and Binance blockchains. Investors earned profits by recruiting others into the scheme, the SEC said.
Forsage also allegedly used assets from new investors to pay earlier investors in a typical Ponzi structure, the SEC complaint added.
“Forsage is a fraudulent pyramid scheme launched on a massive scale and aggressively marketed to investors,” said Carolyn Welshhans, acting chief of the SEC’s Crypto Assets and Cyber unit. “Fraudsters cannot circumvent the federal securities laws by focusing their schemes on smart contracts and blockchains.”
The four Forsage founders were last known to be living in Russia, the Republic of Georgia and Indonesia, the SEC said in its statement.
Without admitting or denying the allegations, two of the defendants agreed to settle the charges and one of them agreed to pay penalties, the SEC said.
The 11 charged individuals could not immediately be reached for comment.