Two Men Charged for Operating $25M Cryptocurrency Ponzi Scheme
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
A superseding indictment was unsealed yesterday charging an Australian national and a California man with operating a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims of more than $25 million.
According to court documents, David Gilbert Saffron, 51, of Australia, and Vincent Anthony Mazzotta Jr., 52, of Los Angeles, allegedly conspired to operate a fraudulent scheme to induce victims to invest in various trading programs that falsely promised to employ an artificial intelligence automated trading bot to trade victims’ investments in cryptocurrency markets and earn high-yield profits. Saffron and Mazzotta promoted the investment programs under various names including Circle Society, Bitcoin Wealth Management, Omicron Trust, Mind Capital, and Cloud9Capital. Rather than investing victims’ funds in cryptocurrency, Saffron and Mazzotta allegedly misappropriated victims’ funds to pay for personal expenses including private chartered jet flights, luxury hotel accommodations, private mansion rentals, a personal chef, and private security guards.
To execute the scheme, Saffron and Mazzotta allegedly created a fictious entity called the Federal Crypto Reserve. The indictment alleges that, after inducing victims to invest in one of the cryptocurrency investment programs, Saffron and Mazzotta fraudulently solicited victims to pay the Federal Crypto Reserve to investigate and recover the victims’ losses. To conceal his identity, Saffron often allegedly solicited victims under various aliases, including David Gilbert and Dave Gabe, and under various online personas, including the Blue Wizard and Bitcoin Yoda.
Saffron and Mazzotta also allegedly conspired to obstruct official proceedings by concealing assets, concealing or destroying evidence, and falsifying records. The defendants also allegedly conspired to conceal the source and location of victims’ cryptocurrency investments through various means, including using methods known as “blockchain hopping” and through services known as “mixers” or “tumblers” that are designed to prevent cryptocurrency tracing.
Saffron and Mazzotta are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. Saffron is also alleged to have committed felonies while on pre-trial release. If convicted, they each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 10 years for each money laundering count, and five years for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Saffron also faces up to 10 years in prison consecutive to any other sentence for committing felonies while on pre-trial release.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California, and Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI) Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
IRS:CI is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Theodore Kneller and Siji Moore of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney James Hughes for the Central District of California are prosecuting the case.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission previously charged Saffron by complaint.
If you believe you are a victim in this case, please contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness Unit toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about victims’ rights, please visit www.justice.gov/criminal/criminal-vns/victim-rights-derechos-de-las-v-ctimas.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Updated December 12, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-1404
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud