URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: First U.S. Criminal Prosecution Of Bitcoin-Themed Scheme; Trendon Shavers Arrested

breakingnews72In the first U.S. criminal prosecution involving a Bitcoin-themed scheme, Trendon Shavers has been arrested and charged with securities fraud and wire fraud.

Shavers, 32, of McKinney, Texas, was charged civilly by the SEC in July 2013. He is known as “pirateat40,”  and allegedly pushed his Bitcoin Savings and Trust Ponzi scheme from a forum.

FBI agents arrested him today at his Texas residence.

“As alleged, Trendon Shavers managed to combine financial and cyber fraud into a Bitcoin Ponzi scheme that offered absurdly high interest payments, and ultimately cheated his investors out of their Bitcoin investments,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.  “This case, the first of its kind, should serve as a warning to those looking to make a quick buck with unsecured currency.”

A top FBI official threw down the gauntlet.

“Shavers used a new currency, but the same old reprehensible tricks,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos. “He claimed to offer a Bitcoin market-arbitrage strategy. In reality, it was nothing more than an insidious scheme motivated by greed. Today, Shavers’ jig is up. He finds himself under arrest and charged in Manhattan federal court.”

Some HYIP schemes appear now to have moved away from payment processors such as the now-shuttered Liberty Reserve and are moving toward Bitcoin.

From a statement by Bharara’s office, which previously prosecuted Liberty Reserve, calling it a $6 billion money-laundering operation that enabled HYIPs and others forms of fraud (italics added):

From at least September 2011 up through and including September 2012, SHAVERS operated a Ponzi scheme. Specifically, SHAVERS solicited investments in BCS&T on the “Bitcoin Forum” – a public, Internet-based forum where, among other things, Bitcoin investment opportunities were posted. SHAVERS’s offer to investors was straightforward: investors who lent Bitcoin to BCS&T would be paid up to seven percent interest weekly – an annualized interest rate of 3,641% per year – and investors could withdraw their investments in BCS&T at any time. SHAVERS claimed that the Bitcoin invested by BCS&T investors would be used to support a Bitcoin market-arbitrage strategy, which included (i) lending Bitcoin to others for a fixed period of time; (ii) trading Bitcoin via online exchanges; and (iii) selling Bitcoin locally via private, off-markets transactions – i.e., “over-the-counter transactions.” SHAVERS also personally guaranteed to cover any losses in the event of a market change. In truth, SHAVERS largely failed to execute the claimed market arbitrage strategy, failed to honor all of his investors’ redemption requests as well as his personal guarantee, and failed to deliver the agreed upon rates of interest.

In the end, BCS&T was a Ponzi scheme in which SHAVERS used Bitcoin from new investors to make purported interest payments to existing investors and to cover investors’ requests to withdraw Bitcoin from existing BCS&T accounts. In addition, SHAVERS diverted investors’ Bitcoin for day trading in his own account on a Bitcoin currency exchange, and exchanged investors’ Bitcoin for U.S. dollars to pay certain of his personal expenses. At the peak of the scheme, SHAVERS raised, and had in his possession, about seven percent of all the Bitcoin that were then in public circulation. In the end, at least 48 of approximately 100 investors lost all or part of their investment in BCS&T.

Some Bitcoin enthusiasts have fretted that dark forces and criminal organizations are seeking to use Bitcoin in the same way they used Liberty Reserve. Criminal activities could undermine confidence in Bitcoin and affect its perception in the marketplace.

In late August, some affiliates of the collapsed $850 million Zeek Rewards Ponzi scheme began pushing a Bitcoin-themed “program” known as BitClub Network, a purported “mining venture” with an investment arm attached that purportedly supplies a payout for 1,000 days.

Prospects were encouraged to buy in with sums ranging from $500 to $3,500.

Zeek used traditional forms of payment.

 

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2 Responses to “URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: First U.S. Criminal Prosecution Of Bitcoin-Themed Scheme; Trendon Shavers Arrested”

  1. From Jordan Maglich in Forbes:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanmaglich/2014/11/06/texas-man-arrested-for-4-5-million-bitcoin-ponzi-scheme/

    Many PP Blog readers will know Jordan from PonziTracker.com.

    Patrick

      (Quote)

  2. Quick note: Courthouse News has the charging document:

    http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/11/06/Shavers.PDF

    It’s also available through the prosecution’s website:

    http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/November14/TrendonShaversArrest/Shavers,%20Trendon%20Complaint.PDF

    It’s a remarkable read. One of the most interesting parts is an allegation that someone challenged Shavers in 2012 to bet that he was not running a Ponzi scheme. Shavers took the bet, and an escrow agent handled it.

    Definitions were established about what would constitute a default. Shavers ultimately defaulted, and the other party to the bet was declared the winner of 5,000 Bitcoin.

    The complaint also outlines steak dinners in Las Vegas at which investors were wooed.

    An individual dubbed “The Big One” allegedly became the recipient of a purported loan for 202,000 Bitcoin from Shavers, but Shavers “has no record or proof that he (SHAVERS) made this loan to ‘The Big One,’ nor
    does SHAVERS know who ‘The Big One’ is.”

    I’m wondering if any money was lost to treatments for, say, Dengue Fever, or recovery from a hurricane or typhoon.

    I’m not sure I’ve even seen an instance in which an HYIP did not include a bizarre narrative — and yet people keep joining them.

    Patrick

      (Quote)

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