PORTLAND, Ore.—U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced today that two Nigerian nationals have been charged in a 13-count indictment alleging they engaged in an online scheme to defraud victims of bitcoin virtual currency.
In an indictment filed on April 18, 2019, Onwuemerie Ogor Gift, 24, and Kelvin Usifoh, age unknown, were charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and 11 counts of wire fraud.
As alleged in the indictment, the scheme began when Gift and Usifoh purchased the URL www.wealthcurrency.com and published various webpages promising investors 20-50 percent returns on investments of bitcoin with zero risk and instant withdrawals. They actively encouraged victims to transfer bitcoin to private virtual currency wallets and made numerous false claims including that their bitcoins would be invested using “unique trading methods” and they would maintain a “constant high interest rate.” They created additional websites perpetuating the same scheme including www.boomcurrency.com and www.merrycurrency.com.
Beginning in December 2017 and continuing until at June 2018, Gift and Usifoh are alleged to have knowingly conspired to defraud three victims, one residing in Oregon and two in California. A photo of a fourth victim was used to create a false persona used in furtherance of the scheme. After receiving bitcoin transfers from their victims, Gift and Usifoh would transfer the bitcoin to other accounts and eventually exchange it for Nigerian Naira. The indictment alleges that in just over six months, the defendants stole 10.88 bitcoins worth approximately $59,000 from the three victims. In total, the government alleges Gift and Usifoh received more than 50 bitcoins as part of the scheme.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Quinn P. Harrington, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy today issued an Investor Alert to warn investors about investment scams involving websites touting advisory and trading businesses related to digital assets.