US authorities have reportedly arrested Brandon Austin and his father, Eugene "Hugh" Austin, on charges of staging a massive crypto fraud, embezzling more than $10 million from investors.
Brandon, who has already pleaded guilty, will hear his sentence on September 6.
Driving investors to fund a lavish lifestyle
According to recent coverage, federal agents arrested Brandon Austin, 27, in April and his father on July 5. US attorney Damian Williams said the duo "victimized both sophisticated and novice cryptocurrency investors in the millions."
Specifically, the family encouraged people to buy cryptocurrencies through them by promising great returns. However, they cheated every penny and used the money for their benefit.
Officials said the perpetrators stayed in fancy hotels, bought luxury cars and visited expensive restaurants. They also offered funds to their loved ones by bank transfer. Brandon sent $50,000 to the mother of his children and $32,000 to his girlfriend, while Hugh gave $10,000 to his father and lover.
The duo went further, arranging glamorous trips to New York, Miami and Europe, inviting investors as special guests who would later realize that these parties were thrown so the Austin family could amass new victims.
Each investor parted with a different amount, with one losing over $500,000. At one point, they got angry with Hugh, urging him to keep his promise and send him the assets and the return on investment. The alleged criminal answered clearly:
"I'll call you (sic) in about 25 minutes. Thanks, Hughes.
Brandon pleaded guilty, agreeing to forfeit $3.4 million and pay $2 million in restitution. Federal agents also confiscated a 2022 Jaguar E-Pace P250 that was worth more than $60,000.
Both men face up to 20 years in prison for money laundering and wire fraud charges. Magistrates are expected to decide Brandon's sentence on September 6.
A mini version of OneCoin?
The aforementioned case resembles one of the biggest frauds in crypto history – OneCoin. The Ponzi scheme, orchestrated by Ruja Ignatova (aka "The Cryptoqueen"), ran between 2014 and 2016, draining around $4 billion from investors.
The scam leader mysteriously disappeared shortly after authorities opened an investigation against OneCoin. Ignatova was last seen in Athens, Greece, in 2017, and her whereabouts have been the subject of conspiracy theories ever since.
Some believe she is hiding on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, far from the coast (where law enforcement is not allowed to arrest her).
Other sources have suggests that Ignatova could have been brutally murdered in 2019 after a Bulgarian drug lord was burned for investing in her scheme.