Quebec trio charged with running fraudulent cryptocurrency
Investors defrauded of $8M worth of phony cryptocurrency
United States Attorney Justin Herdman announced today that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland has returned a five-count indictment charging Dominic Lacroix, age 38, Yan Ouellet, age 36, and Sabrina Paradis-Royer, age 26, all of Quebec, Canada, with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
"While technologies and the means to make investments may change, one thing remains constant – securities fraud ruins lives and deprives victims of their hard-earned money and savings," said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. "Digital currencies are a new type of investment, and just like with traditional securities, you should take the time to research and know exactly what you're getting into before making any type of investment."
"This investigation highlights the specialized skills of FBI Cleveland's Midwestern Cryptocurrency Task Force in addressing matters involving cryptocurrency," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith. "FBI Cleveland and its task force partners are committed to ensuring new and evolving financial technology is not used as a license to steal and evade scrutiny by law enforcement."
According to the indictment, from May 2017 to December 2017, the defendants conspired together to induce investors to purchase PlexCoin, a cryptocurrency offered through an entity known as PlexCorps. The cryptocurrency would become available to investors during an ICO or Initial Coin Offering. The defendants intended to use the ICO as a way to defraud investors and enrich themselves.
To carry out their alleged scheme, the defendants and their co-conspirators marketed and promoted PlexCorps and the PlexCoin ICO to the public, including investors within the Northern District of Ohio, via social media and publicly accessible Internet websites.
The indictment states that the defendants made numerous false claims about PlexCorps and PlexCoin in order to obtain digital and fiat currency from investors, including that PlexCorps' management consisted of a global "team" of financial, managerial and other subject-matter experts headquartered in Singapore; the proceeds of the PlexCoin ICO would be used to develop other PlexCorps products; and that investors would receive significant returns for their initial investment. The defendants are also alleged to have omitted certain materials facts about the ownership and operations of PlexCorps to conceal their true intent.
According to the indictment, around June 2017, PlexCorps began promoting PlexCoin to the public as a new digital cryptocurrency that would be available through an upcoming ICO. Around August 2017, PlexCorps published a whitepaper for PlexCoin entitled "PlexCoin: The Next Cryptocurrency" ("Whitepaper"), which was available for review on the internet by potential investors. This Whitepaper contained numerous false claims, including that some investments in PlexCoin could result in a 1,354% return.
This Whitepaper explained that funds raised through the PlexCoin ICO and pre-sale would be used to further the maintenance and development of PlexCoin and, later on, allow for PlexCorps to offer additional products and services for sale.
Investors were permitted to begin investing in PlexCoin in August of 2017. During the ICO, investors purchased PlexCoin using a variety of methods, including digital currency, such as Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin, to wallet addresses on a blockchain. Investors also tendered fiat currency, including USD and Canadian dollars (CAD), and provided credit card information through payment portals available on the PlexCoin website or through U.S.-based online payment processors such as PayPal, Square, or Stripe.
The indictment states that the first transfer of PlexCoin occurred in August of 2017, and the PlexCoin ICO continued through October of 2017. Court documents show that the defendants and their co-conspirators regularly transferred investor funds from the PlexCoin ICO into fiat currency accounts, and cryptocurrency addresses belonging to themselves for the purpose of daily living expenses and home renovation products. Investors purchased approximately $8,000,000 USD worth of PlexCoin throughout the ICO.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, the defendant's sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant's prior criminal record, if any, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.
In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
This investigation was conducted by the Cleveland Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Miller.