The first federal securities fraud case involving a bitcoin investment scheme has ended with perpetrator Trendon Shavers receiving a sentence of 18 months in prison.
In addition, Shavers was assessed penalties including three years of supervised release, a $100 special assessment, $1.2m in forfeiture and $1.2m in restitution.
The decision puts to rest a case that began in July 2013 when Shavers was charged with defrauding investors through an investment service called Bitcoin Savings and Trust (BCS&T), which was later deemed to be a fraudulent ponzi scheme.
Shavers, who was charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud, faced up to 40 years in prison. He pled not guilty to fraud charges in March 2015, a decision he would later reverse in September of that year as part of a plea deal that lowered his possible sentence to a maximum of 41 months.
In statements, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said the case was an example of how new technology can be used to perpetrate activities that are already illegal under existing law.
"Applying a modern spin to an age-old fraud, Trendon Shavers used a bitcoin business to run a classic Ponzi scheme. Shavers raised money in the form of bitcoins by promising spectacular returns and personal guarantees, when all he was really doing was paying back old investors with new investors’ bitcoins."
According to Reuters, Shavers was apologetic in court, stating that he "royally messed up".
"I don't think this is something I'm ever going to get over," he said, according to the report.
Shavers was fined $40.7m in a related civil lawsuit in September of 2014. He was later arrested in November of that year. Prosecutors now project 48 of the scheme's approximately 100 investors lost all or part of investments.
New York prosecutors report Shavers fraudulently obtained approximately 146,000 BTC as a result of the scheme, a figure worth $807,380 based on the average price of bitcoin during the scheme and worth $97m at press time.
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