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Press Release

El Paso Man Pleads Guilty to Operating Ponzi Scheme Disguised as Crypto Investment Firm

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas

EL PASO, Texas – An El Paso man pleaded guilty in federal court here last week to five counts of wire fraud.

According to court documents, Abner Tinoco, 27, operated a Ponzi scheme through his business by soliciting millions of dollars of investments from clients and claiming he would invest their money into funds dealing with cryptocurrency and foreign exchange markets.  Out of approximately $9 million worth of investments deposited into his business accounts, Tinoco spent more than half on personal expenses to include luxury cars, private jets, real estate and jewelry.  Tinoco furthered the deception by providing some of the misappropriated funds as profits to his clients.

Tinoco faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison plus restitution and a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count.  A sentencing date has not yet been decided.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

In a separate civil case stemming from the above scheme, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) secured a civil consent decree against Tinoco and his business, imposing a ban relating to trading activities.  The Department of Justice will work to achieve restitution for any additional victims of Tinoco’s scheme.

U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey of the FBI El Paso Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shane Romero and Chris Skillern are prosecuting the case.


Updated January 17, 2023

Financial Fraud