Two Nigerian nationals have been indicted by U.S. prosecutors for allegedly running a fraudulent bitcoin investment scheme.
The Oregon District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that the defendants, Onwuemerie Ogor Gift and Kelvin Usifoh, are charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
From December 2017 to June 2018, Gift and Usifoh are said to have promoted the fake bitcoin investment scheme via three websites – wealthcurrency.com, boomcurrency.com and merrycurrency.com – promising investors 20–50 percent risk-free returns with instant withdrawals.
Gift and Usifoh falsely claimed that victims' bitcoins would be invested using “unique trading methods” and that they would maintain a “constant high interest rate.” The pair also allegedly encouraged investors to transfer bitcoin to their own cryptocurrency wallets. Once transferred, Gift and Usifoh would exchange it for their local currency, Nigerian naira.
In over six months, the defendants stole 10.88 bitcoins (worth approximately $56,391 at press time) from three victims, one residing in Oregon and two in California, according to the indictment. They also used a photo of a fourth victim to promote their scheme.
In total, the prosecutors allege Gift and Usifoh received more than 50 bitcoins ($259,000) through the scam.
Largely due to their pseudonymous, online nature, cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular as a means to scam investors. But law enforcement is catching up.
Warning cryptocurrency investors over such schemes, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission jointly issued an alert earlier this week, saying that claims such as "risk-free", "absolutely safe" and "guaranteed profit" are hallmarks of a fraud.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.