The founder of the AML Bitcoin project claims the U.S. government is “extorting” him after he was indicted on money laundering and wire fraud charges.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed lawsuits against Rowland Marcus Andrade on Thursday, claiming he misled investors while raising funds for a 2017 and 2018 initial coin offering (ICO) for AML Bitcoin, a crypto token that was supposed to be designed to be compliant with anti-money-laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations.
Alongside Andrade, notorious D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff was also indicted, though he has already pled guilty and faces potential jail time, according to Bloomberg.
In a video interview Thursday night, Andrade told CoinDesk the charges were bogus and that he is a “victim of government corruption.”
"Abramoff was working with the government and tried to get me to sell my company for $100 Million,” Andrade wrote in a direct message from the @AMLBitcoin Twitter handle. “Then they demanded that I pay Abramoff $40M dollars so he could spread the wealth," he wrote. "If I had no technology that is completed right now and trading, then why were they trying to force me to sell it? This is just an attempt by the government to destroy my company since I refused to play ball."
"The U.S. government is now trying to create there [sic] own compliant digital currency based off my technology and they clearly see me as a threat," he said. (While there are private efforts currently underway to create a U.S. central bank digital currency, i.e. a digital dollar, the government itself has yet to publicly advocate for a tokenized version of the greenback.)
The SEC claimed Andrade raised $5.6 million from 2,400 investors, falling well short of the $100 million he originally tried to raise.
About $1 million of this came from a single investor, identified by the DOJ as “Victim One.” In a court filing related to a separate but ongoing case, Andrade claims the U.S. government manufactured the victim.
“It was the government who contacted ‘Victim One’ and suggested to him that he had been defrauded,” the filing said.
CoinDesk spoke with Victim One on Thursday. The money manager confirmed he was informed of the allegations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but said he “was a victim of fraud.”
A friend introduced him to the project and his employer was not involved, Victim One told CoinDesk, requesting anonymity due to concerns about professional blowback. He also confirmed he was unaware of the fraud allegations against AML Bitcoin until the FBI called him.
Victim One indicated he might pursue civil charges against Andrade at some future point.
'Victim of corruption'
For his part, Andrade was defiant.
"The SEC and the DOJ have the evidence already that proves my innocence. That is why in various filings I had no choice but to make the documents public," Andrade wrote in one of many DMs, referring to a separate, ongoing case. "This was aggravating the DOJ because I was ripping there [sic] case apart. I am the victim of government corruption and we will fight this."
He told CoinDesk he had reached out to the SEC's FinHub division, the regulator’s fintech division that acts as a point of contact for startups, to confirm his token was not a security. He said the regulator did not respond.
"I did not care [if] they said we were a security because I was willing to make any changes the SEC required," he said. "Instead of helping, they took my documents and came after me."
According to the March DOJ filing, U.S. officials had previously filed to seize "one parcel of real property" owned at least in part by Andrade and his wife.
Andrade also claims he was "the victim of corruption" in a response to that complaint, and laid out an elaborate, conspiratorial interpretation of events involving Abramoff, former U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Jared Kushner (U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law).
The filing alleged federal investigators are attempting to force Andrade to target "bigger political based targets," including Abramoff and Rohrabacher, in an effort to somehow influence the 2020 presidential election.