CFTC files charges in two cryptocurrency fraud cases

CFTC files charges in two cryptocurrency fraud cases
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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed charges against two companies for fraud involving the sale of and advice on cryptocurrency investments, the agency said Friday.

The CFTC charged Dillon Michael Dean and his company, The Entrepreneurs Headquarters, with fraud for running a Ponzi scheme that promised high returns for investing in a cryptocurrency pool.

The complaint alleges that since April, Dean and his firm solicited $1 million worth of bitcoin from more than 600 people. Dean promised the pooled resources would be converted to fiat currency and invested in more traditional commodity contracts. Dean and the company allegedly instead used some investments to pay other investors with money they claimed was from the fund’s high return rate.

“Increased public interest in Bitcoin and other virtual currencies has provided new opportunities for bad actors,” said James McDonald, the CFTC’s director of enforcement.

“As this case shows, the CFTC will continue to take swift action to stop such fraudulent schemes and to hold fraudsters accountable for their misconduct.”

The CFTC also filed charges against Patrick McDonnell and his company, CabbageTech, for charging potential clients for cryptocurrency investment advice that they never provided.

McDonnell and the company promised real-time crypto trading advice from expert advisers in exchange for money, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The company never provided the investment advice, the CFTC alleged.

The two cases come as the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) crackdown on cryptocurrency-related trading fraud. Both agencies have issued several investor warnings about the risks of crypto investment and its rapidly developing derivatives market.

The CFTC considers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies commodities and focuses on fraudulent sales of units of those currencies. The SEC has jurisdiction over cryptocurrencies that are used as securities.

The CFTC and SEC issued a joint statement Friday after the CFTC announced the cases against Dean and McDonnell, pledging to weed out cryptocurrency fraud.

“When market participants engage in fraud under the guise of offering digital instruments — whether characterized as virtual currencies, coins, tokens, or the like — the SEC and the CFTC will look beyond form, examine the substance of the activity and prosecute violations of the federal securities and commodities laws,” the agencies said.

“The Divisions of Enforcement for the SEC and CFTC will continue to address violations and bring actions to stop and prevent fraud in the offer and sale of digital instruments."

Coin Center, a cryptocurrency advocacy and research group, praised the regulators’ efforts to police the market.

“We are glad both agencies will continue to target frauds and scams masquerading as initial coin offerings,” said Jerry Brito, Coin Center’s executive director.

“They'll need to continue to work together to draw distinctions between those fields of our technology, and are off to an excellent start.”

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo are scheduled to testify in February before the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing on cryptocurrency.