Airbit Club Founders, Lawyer Plead Guilty to $100M Fraud Scheme
The scheme's founders and promoters promised victims their money would be invested in a lucrative mining operation, but instead spent funds on cars, jewelry and luxury homes.
Six executives of the global cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme Airbit Club have pleaded guilty to their roles in the global fraud and money laundering scheme that prosecutors say defrauded victims out of a collective $100 million.
Pablo Renato Rodriguez, one of the co-founders of Airbit Club, pleaded guilty on Wednesday. Co-founder Gutemberg Dos Santos pleaded guilty in October 2021 after being extradited to the U.S. from his native country of Panama in November 2020. Three promoters – Cecilia Millan, Karina Chairez, and Jackie Aguilar – pleaded guilty earlier this year. Scott Hughes, an attorney who helped Rodriguez and Dos Santos launder money, pleaded guilty on March 2.
Airbit Club was a global scam in which promoters hosted “lavish expos” and community presentations throughout the U.S., Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, and convinced victims to invest in “memberships” that purported to yield returns generated through bitcoin mining and trading. Victims could view their “balances” on an online portal but the numbers were fake and they could not withdraw funds.
According to prosecutors, victims’ funds were instead spent on enriching the club’s founders and promoters, who spent the money on “cars, jewelry and luxury homes” as well as “more extravagant expos to recruit more victims.”
All six pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud conspiracy.
Though none have been sentenced yet, each could face a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison. As part of their guilty plea, the defendants must forfeit their ill-gotten gains, including U.S. currency, bitcoin and real estate valued at a collective $100 million.
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. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.
Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.