NYAG Sues 2 Crypto Pyramid Schemes, Promoters Targeting Haitian-Americans in $1B Scam

NovaTech’s founders Cynthia and Eddy Petion allegedly preyed on Creole-speaking church-goers and advertised their scheme as a way to gain “freedom from the plantation.”

AccessTimeIconJun 6, 2024 at 8:37 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 6, 2024 at 8:41 p.m. UTC

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit against two purported crypto companies and their top promoters, a married couple, for allegedly operating two consecutive pyramid schemes that predominantly targeted Haitian immigrants to the U.S.

According to the complaint filed Thursday, the two schemes – AWS Mining and NovaTechFX – preyed on Creole-speaking church-goers via WhatsApp group chats, bilking investors out of more than $1 billion.

The first alleged scheme, an Australian company called AWS Mining, operated from 2017 until its collapse in 2019 and guaranteed investors a 200% return on their investment from crypto mining within 13-15 months. AWS Mining rewarded its promoters – including a Panama-based married couple originally from Florida, Cynthia and Eddy Petion – by giving them a 10% cut of the money invested by the new investors they recruited to the alleged scheme, along with bonuses and ceremonial titles.

The Petions were two of AWS Mining’s top promoters – each recruiting at least 200,000 investors to their “downline” – earning them both the ceremonial title of “President,” the suit alleged. After AWS Mining went bust in April 2019, the couple decided to start a new company together, NovaTechFX, with Cynthia serving as CEO and Eddy as COO. NovaTech claimed to be a crypto and foreign exchange trading platform that advertised up to 4% returns per week.

For their new company, the Petions allegedly recruited former promoters from AWS Mining – including Martin Zizi, James Corbett and Frantz Ciceron, who are also named as defendants in James’ suit – and, like AWS Mining, paid them a percentage of what the investors they recruited deposited in the platform.

Between August 2019 and April 2023, NovaTech’s investors deposited over $1 billion in the scheme, according to the complaint. In June 2022, shortly before the alleged scheme began to draw the attention of state securities regulators (who subsequently sent cease-and-desist letters to the company for fraud and securities violations) the Petions secretly sold their house in Florida and moved to Panama, James’ suit said.

Cynthia also advised her promoters to flee the U.S: “Leave the country,” Petion allegedly told Zizi. “They can’t serve you if they can’t find you lol.”

By December of 2022, the month after the spectacular collapse of crypto exchange FTX, many of NovaTech’s investors were requesting to withdraw their funds from the platform. In February 2023, the company halted withdrawals, and in May it shut down, failing to return “tens of thousands” of investors’ deposits and leaving them with “hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.”

Affinity fraud

According to the suit, the Petions and their employees largely preyed on Haitian immigrants in religious communities.

Cynthia Petion began calling herself “the Reverend CEO” after founding NovaTech, and claimed that God sent her a “vision” of the company while she was brushing her teeth, and called Jesus the “best affiliate market in the world”. The Petions and their promoters regularly hosted prayer groups where they advertised the alleged scheme, according to the complaint.

Zizi and the other promoters upheld Cynthia’s status as a visionary by likening her to American hero and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, telling investors that she had “helped thousands to see the light… and through her vision has created ways within the wilderness.”

NovaTech’s founders and promoters breathlessly marketed the scheme to investors – many of whom were experiencing financial hardship – as a path to becoming “the 1st millionaire in your family,” a way to “leave a legacy” and to gain “freedom from the plantation,” according to the complaint.

In private, however, NovaTech’s founders derided their investors as “a cult.” Cynthia Petion allegedly called herself a “Zookeeper” in a chat with one promoter, adding that her investors “join and follow mindlessly…they don’t think. They just agree with everything you say.”

Court records show the Petions previously filed for bankruptcy due to consumer debt in 2011.

The alleged affinity fraud committed by the Petions and the other NovaTech promoters closely mirrors that of EminiFX founder Eddy Alexandre, who also preyed on Haitian religious communities in a crypto pyramid scheme. In 2022, Alexandre was arrested and charged with fraud for stealing $240 million from investors. He pleaded guilty to commodities fraud in 2023 and was sentenced to 9 years in prison.


James has accused AWS Mining, NovaTech, the Petions and the other named promoters of violating the Martin Act, New York’s strict anti-fraud law, as well as repeated and persistent fraud and repeated and persistent illegality. The suit is seeking damages and restitution for the victims, as well as permanent enjoinments preventing the Defendants from ever participating in another investment scheme.

The NYAG’s suit follows a class action lawsuit filed against NovaTech and Cynthia Petion earlier this year.

There are not currently any criminal charges against the Petions or the other promoters.

Edited by Stephen Alpher.


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Cheyenne Ligon

Cheyenne Ligon is a CoinDesk news reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She has no significant crypto holdings.