On December 14, federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced two new indictments against several individuals accused of conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering through alleged phony cryptocurrency schemes called Forcount and IcomTech. These cases present interesting challenges for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, however, because of the high volatility of the cryptocurrency market and the oftentimes lax regulation of the industry.
The allegations in these cases suggest that the defendants used the public enthusiasm and fervor around cryptocurrency investing to run what amounted to a Ponzi scheme with a crypto appearance. The defendants allegedly went to crypto conventions and investor events and flashed conspicuous wealth in order to persuade people to invest in their cryptocurrencies. The defendants allegedly used a software platform to allow investors to see their investments growing, but the defendants would not allow the investors to withdraw funds. Meanwhile, these defendants allegedly used the investor funds for their own purposes and spent the money lavishly.
The defendants might argue that there was in fact a real cryptocurrency investment that simply failed, as so many cryptocurrencies have. (Some reputable economists might even argue that the entire cryptocurrency industry is, at base, a Ponzi scheme in and of itself.) Prosecutors will use bank records and other evidence to show that these investor accounts ran dry because they were emptied by the defendants.