Leader Of Miami Crew Sentenced To 63 Months In Prison For Defrauding Banks And Cryptocurrency Exchange Of More Than $4 Million
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the guilty plea of MARCO RUIZ OCHOA for his role in promoting a large-scale cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme known as IcomTech. OCHOA pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jennifer L. Rochon to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Again and again, we see perpetrators taking advantage of the hype around cryptocurrency to con unsuspecting victims into investing in pyramid schemes. IcomTech was one of these large-scale copycat cryptocurrency scams and Ochoa, as the purported CEO, played an important role taking IcomTech to scale and ultimately harming more victims. Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that we are coming after all of those who seek to exploit cryptocurrency to commit fraud.”
According to the Indictment and statements made in court:
DAVID CARMONA started IcomTech in 2018, and OCHOA was represented to be IcomTech’s CEO until 2019, when a new CEO replaced him. IcomTech was a purported cryptocurrency mining and trading company that promised to earn its victim-investors (“Victims”) profits in exchange for their purchase of purported cryptocurrency-related investment products. OCHOA and the other promoters of IcomTech, including his co-defendants CARMONA, JUAN ARELLANO, MOSES VALDEZ, and DAVID BREND, falsely promised their respective Victims, among other things, that profits from the companies’ cryptocurrency trading and mining would result in guaranteed daily returns on Victims’ investments. In reality, IcomTech did not engage in cryptocurrency trading or mining for its Investors, and OCHOA and IcomTech’s other promoters used Victim funds to pay other Victims to further promote the schemes and to enrich themselves.
IcomTech promoters, including OCHOA, traveled throughout the United States and internationally, where they hosted lavish expos and small community presentations aimed at luring Victims to invest in the schemes, including in the Southern District of New York. During larger-scale events, IcomTech promoters presented on purported investment products and the compensation plan, encouraged Victims to invest as a means of achieving financial freedom, and boasted about the amount of money they were earning. IcomTech promoters often showed up at larger-scale events in expensive cars and wearing luxury clothing as a way of exhibiting their purportedly legitimate success from IcomTech. The atmosphere of these events was festive and designed to generate excitement about the schemes.
Victims invested in IcomTech by purchasing investment products from promoters using cash, checks, wire transfers, and actual cryptocurrency. Following a Victim’s investment, a Victim would be provided with access to an online portal where the Victim could monitor the purported returns. While Victims saw “profits” accumulate on the online portal, most Victims were unable to withdraw any of these so-called profits and ultimately lost their entire investments. By contrast, IcomTech’s promoters, including OCHOA, siphoned off, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in Victim funds, which they withdrew as cash, spent on IcomTech promotional expenses, and used for personal expenditures such as luxury goods and real estate.
At least as early as August 2018, Victims who attempted to withdraw money from their online portal accounts had difficulty doing so and, when they complained to promoters, they were met with excuses, delays, and hidden fees, if they were able to make any withdrawals at all. Despite these complaints, IcomTech promoters, including OCHOA, continued to promote IcomTech and accept Victims’ investments. As complaints mounted, IcomTech began offering proprietary crypto tokens for sale as a means of injecting liquidity into IcomTech. Promoters of the schemes claimed that these tokens, known as “Icoms,” would eventually be worth a significant amount of money when they were accepted by companies for payment for goods and services. This was false. In reality, “Icoms” were essentially worthless and resulted in further financial loss to Victims. By in or about the end of 2019, IcomTech stopped making payments to Victims and IcomTech collapsed.
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OCHOA, 35, of Nashua, New Hampshire, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.
The maximum potential penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of Special Agents from Homeland Security Investigations’ El Dorado Task Force. Mr. Williams also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for their assistance.
If you believe you are a victim of the IcomTech fraud, updated information regarding the case and victims’ rights, as well as contact information for the victim witness coordinator is available here.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin A. Gianforti, Michael Maimin, and Cecilia E. Vogel are in charge of the prosecution.