A Swedish man has been sentenced to 15 years behind bars for operating a cryptocurrency scam that claimed to pay investors based on the price of gold reserves.
Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson pleaded guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in March this year after being prosecuted in the United States following his arrest in Thailand in 2019. He was later extradited.
The 47-year-old was charged with operating Eastern Metal Securities (EMS), a company that claimed to operate an investment service based on cryptocurrency. Investors who participated in EMS from 2012 to 2019 were offered plans in which shares, purchased for under $100, would eventually realize a return equivalent to 1.15 kilograms of gold.
In 2019, 1.15kg in gold was worth over $45,000. Today, its value would be over $58,000.
In order to join the scheme, investors were asked to purchase shares through cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH).
Furthermore, traders were told that in the 'unlikely' event that the shares would not reach their promised value, participants would have 97% of their initial investment returned.
Karlsson made sure EMS operated for as long as possible by frequently rebranding, issuing updates, and providing asset statements.
He also falsely claimed that paying out a vast sum all at once would have a negative impact on global financial systems, and also said the company was working with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to explain away payment delays.
However, as is often the case when extreme returns on investments are offered, the promise was too good to be true. Investors saw no returns, and instead, Karlsson -- who also used online aliases including Steve Heyden, Euclid Deodoris, and Joshua Millard -- siphoned the cryptocurrency and used the cash to purchase homes and a resort in Thailand.
US prosecutors estimate that investors were swindled out of over $16 million.
"Karlsson admitted he had no way to pay off the investors," the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said. "Karlsson's fraud targeted financially insecure investors, causing severe financial hardship for many of them."
Alongside the 15-year sentence, Karlsson has been ordered to forfeit the resort in Thailand, other properties, accounts, and has received a monetary judgment of $16,263,820. Prosecutors also hope to secure restitution for past EMS investors and an order is expected in court within 90 days.
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