U.S. authorities charged 11 people in an alleged international cryptocurrency Ponzi and pyramid scheme that conned millions worldwide to invest more than $300 million on the Forsage platform, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday, marking the latest crypto crackdown as scrutiny into the industry intensifies.
The SEC alleges Forsage operated as a traditional Ponzi scheme, funneling money to early investors and paying those who convinced others to join.
Forsage recruited users to deposit their crypto assets onto the platform to fund automatically executed “smart contracts” to receive a profit, but the SEC alleges these assets were instead used to deliver profits to individuals higher up in the pyramid.
Authorities charged Forsage’s four foreign-based founders, who were last known to live in Georgia, Indonesia and Russia, as well as seven Americans who promoted Forsage who the SEC seeks to agree to return profits, pay fines and accept behavior provisions.
Forsage continued to operate despite cease-and-desist orders from the SEC of the Philippines in 2020 and Montana’s Commissioner of Securities and Insurance in 2021.
The company raked in over $1.3 billion in lifetime revenues and had 2.1 million users, Forsage’s website claimed, accepting Binance, Ethereum and Tron crypto tokens.
The SEC has expanded its crypto regulation in recent months, expanding its newly named Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit from 30 to 50 positions in May. Last month, the SEC arrested three individuals, including a former product manager at crypto exchange Coinbase, in its first crypto insider trading case. The cryptocurrency market has cooled considerably this year, with the price of bitcoin cratering more than 50% and several firms shedding major chunks of their workforce.
Carolyn Welshhans, the acting chief of the SEC’s Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit, called Forsage “a fraudulent pyramid scheme launched on a massive scale and aggressively marketed to investors” in the release.
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