Virtual-world tech company owner arrested over alleged $45m investment fraud scheme

Investment fraud scheme defrauded more than 10,000 victims, says Department of Justice.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
Image: Vintage Tone/Shutterstock

The owner of several metaverse companies has been arrested over an alleged investment fraud scheme that defrauded more than 10,000 victims of over $45 million.

Last week, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that Neil Chandran, a Las Vegas resident, was arrested over allegations of fraud.

The 50-year-old owns companies operating under the "ViRSE" brand, including Free Vi Lab, Studio Vi, ViDelivery, and ViMarket.

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Chandran's companies developed virtual-world technologies, including their own cryptocurrency, for use in the companies' own metaverse. ViRSE calls itself "the virtual universe of people, places, and content accessible from any internet-enabled device on this planet."

According to the DoJ, Chandran used the companies as part of a scheme "falsely promising extremely high returns" to investors on the basis that either one or more of his companies was on the verge of being acquired by a "wealthy" consortium.

The DoJ's indictment claims that the executive defrauded over 10,000 individuals of over $45 million by making claims that at least two billionaires were part of the acquisition talks, and that while the deal was being set, investor cash would be used to keep the businesses running normally.

US prosecutors say that no buyers existed. Instead, a "substantial" portion of investor funds was spent on personal assets, including real estate and luxury cars.

Over 100 different assets are listed in the indictment, including bank accounts, property, and 39 Tesla vehicles. The FBI and US Marshals are seizing many of the assets pending the results of an investigation.

On June 14, a federal grand jury in the District of Nebraska returned an indictment charging Chandran, now unsealed.

The DoJ has laid out three counts of wire fraud and two counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. If found guilty, the executive faces up to 20 years behind bars for each count of wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison for the property charge. An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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