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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 14, 2022

U.S. Attorney Announces Fraud And Money Laundering Charges Against The Founders And Promoters Of Two Cryptocurrency Ponzi Schemes

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ivan J. Arvelo, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security (“HSI”), announced charges in two separate Indictments against the founders and promoters of two cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes known as IcomTech and Forcount (and later known as Weltsys).  United States v. David Carmona, et al., 22 Cr. 551 (JLR), charges DAVID CARMONA, MARCO RUIZ OCHOA, MOSES VALDEZ, JUAN ARELLANO, DAVID BREND, and GUSTAVO RODRIGUEZ with conspiracy to commit wire fraud based on their involvement with IcomTech from in or about mid-2018 until in or about the end of 2019.  United States v. Francisley da Silva, et al., S1 22 Cr. 622 (AT), charges FRANCISLEY DA SILVA, JUAN TACURI, and ANTONIA PEREZ HERNANDEZ with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud based on their involvement with Forcount from in or about mid-2017 until at least in or about the end of 2021.  SILVA and TACURI are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and HERNANDEZ is also charged with making false statements.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “With these two indictments, this Office is sending a message to all cryptocurrency scammers: We are coming for you.  Stealing is stealing, even when dressed up in the jargon of cryptocurrency.  Thanks to the efforts of federal, state, and international law enforcement, IcomTech and Forcount’s founders and promoters are being held to account.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said: “The excitement around cryptocurrency and the potential to make huge profits attracted would-be investors to the alleged schemes run by the individuals indicted today.  With high end clothes and cars, these individuals are alleged to have presented a life of luxury to potential investors, but instead of a lucrative investment opportunity, the victims were fleeced of their savings and left with nothing to show for it.   Homeland Security Investigations works tirelessly to uncover financial crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.”

As alleged in the Indictments:[1]

IcomTech and Forcount were both purported cryptocurrency mining and trading companies that promised to earn their respective victim-investors (“Victims”) profits in exchange for their purchase of purported cryptocurrency-related investment products.  The founders and promoters of each scheme 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 and the doubling of those investments within six months.  In reality, neither company was engaging in cryptocurrency trading or mining, and the founders and promoters of both schemes were using Victim funds to pay other Victims, to further promote the schemes, and to enrich themselves.

Both the IcomTech and Forcount defendants fraudulently induced their victims to invest in sham cryptocurrency activities using similar methods.  The founders and promoters of the two schemes 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, the schemes’ promoters would present the schemes’ investment products and compensation plan, encourage Victims to invest as a means of achieving financial freedom, and boast about the amount of money they were earning.  The schemes’ 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 the schemes.  The atmosphere of these events was festive and designed to generate excitement about the schemes.

Victims invested in the IcomTech and Forcount schemes by purchasing investment products from promoters using cash, checks, wire transfers, and actual cryptocurrency. Following a Victim’s investment, they would be provided with access to an online portal where they could monitor their purported returns.  While Victims saw “profits” accumulate on the schemes’ respective online portals, most Victims were unable to withdraw any of these so-called profits and ultimately lost their entire investments.  By contrast, IcomTech and Forcount’s promoters siphoned off, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in Victim funds, which they withdrew as cash, spent on promotional expenses for the schemes, and used for personal expenditures such as luxury goods and real estate.

At least as early as August 2018 with respect to the IcomTech scheme, and in or about April 2018 with respect to the Forcount scheme, 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 and Forcount’s promoters, including the defendants, continued to promote their respective fraudulent schemes and accept Victims’ investments.  As complaints mounted in both schemes, IcomTech and Forcount both began offering proprietary crypto-tokens for sale as a means of injecting liquidity into the schemes.  Promoters of the schemes claimed that these tokens, known as “Icoms” in the IcomTech scheme and “Mindexcoin” in the Forcount scheme, 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, they were essentially worthless and resulted in further financial loss to Victims.  By in or about the end of 2019 with respect to IcomTech, and in or about 2021 with respect to Forcount, the schemes had stopped making payments to Victims and their chief promoters, including the defendants, stopped promoting the schemes, and, in some instances, stopped responding to Victims’ complaints altogether.

In addition to promoting the Forcount scheme, SILVA and TACURI also sought to conceal their fraud by laundering Victim funds through shell companies and making large personal expenditures on things like real estate and bulk cellphone purchases.  On or about June 27, 2022, law enforcement officers with HSI stopped and interviewed HERNANDEZ as she was returning to the United States from Mexico.  During the interview, HERNANDEZ falsely denied, among other things, being a Forcount promoter, recruiting investors, and taking money from them.

On November 8, 2022, United States v. David Carmona, et al., 22 Cr. 551 (JLR), was unsealed.  As alleged in the Carmona indictment, CARMONA was the founder of IcomTech; OCHOA, VALDEZ, ARELLANO, and BREND were promoters of the scheme; and RODRIGUEZ was hired by CARMONA to build and maintain IcomTech’s website and online portal.  On November 8, 2022, CARMONA was arrested in Queens, New York, and presented before United States Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave of the Southern District of New York; OCHOA was arrested in the District of New Hampshire; VALDEZ, ARELLANO, and RODRIGUEZ were arrested in the Central District of California; and BREND was arrested in the Middle District of Florida.  The Carmona matter has been assigned to United States District Judge Jennifer L. Rochon.

On December 14, 2022, United States v. Francisley da Silva, et al., S1 Cr. 622 (AT), was unsealed.  As alleged in the Silva indictment, SILVA was the founder of Forcount and TACURI and HERNANDEZ were promoters of the scheme.  On December 14, 2022, TACURI was arrested in the Southern District of Florida.  SILVA, a Brazilian national, has been in custody in Brazil since on or about November 3, 2022.  HERNANDEZ remains at large.  The Silva matter has been assigned to United States District Judge Analisa Torres.

*                *                *

A chart containing the names of the defendants who were charged today and the charges and maximum penalties they face is attached.  The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, particularly HSI New York El Dorado Task Force/Securities Investigations Group, HSI Brasilia, HSI Tampa, and HSI Orlando; the New York City Police Department; the New York City Sheriff’s Office; the Bureau of Insurance Fraud, Property, and Casualty in the Division of Investigative and Forensic Services of the Florida Department of Financial Services; and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.  Mr. Williams also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Brazilian Federal Police for their assistance.  

The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin A. Gianforti and Cecilia Vogel are in charge of the prosecution of the Carmona matter.  AUSA Gianforti is also in charge of the prosecution of the Silva matter.

The charges contained in the indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is committed to protecting the rights of crime victims.  If you believe you are a victim of the IcomTech and/or Forcount schemes, our Victim/Witness Unit can make sure that you are notified of important stages of these cases to help you exercise your rights.  In addition, our Victim/Witness Unit is available to answer questions you might have about these cases and can refer you to available resources.

Wendy Olsen Clancy

Victim/Witness Coordinator

United States Attorney’s Office

One St. Andrew’s Plaza

New York, New York 10007

(866) 874-8900

Wendy.Olsen@usdoj.gov

 

United States v. David Carmona, et al., 22 Cr. 551 (JLR)

Defendant

Age

Charges

Maximum Penalties

DAVID CARMONA,

Queens, NY

39

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

20 years in prison

MARCO RUIZ OCHOA,

Nashua, NH

34

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

20 years in prison

MOSES VALDEZ,

Hesperia, CA

26

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

20 years in prison

JUAN ARELLANO,

Chino, CA

46

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

20 years in prison

DAVID BREND,

Tampa, FL

48

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

20 years in prison

GUSTAVO RODRIGUEZ,

North Hollywood, CA

46

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

20 years in prison

United States v. Francisley da Silva, et al., S1 22 Cr. 622 (AT)

FRANCISLEY DA SILVA, Curitiba, Brazil

37

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

 

Count 2: Wire fraud

 

Count 3: Conspiracy to commit money laundering

20 years in prison

 

20 years in prison

 

20 years in prison

JUAN TACURI,

Orlando, FL

44

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

 

Count 2: Wire fraud

 

Count 3: Conspiracy to commit money laundering

20 years in prison

 

20 years in prison

 

20 years in prison

ANTONIA PEREZ HERNANDEZ,

Tampa, FL

47

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

 

Count 2: Wire fraud

 

Count 4: False statements

20 years in prison

 

20 years in prison

 

Five years in prison

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictments and the description of the Indictments set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
22-391
Updated December 14, 2022