A Swedish man has been sentenced to serve 15 years in federal prison for defrauding at least 3,575 people in a bogus cryptocurrency investment scheme.
Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering on March 3. His sentence was given by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday.
Details of the case revealed by the DOJ show that a criminal complaint filed March 4, 2019, charged Karlsson, also known by several aliases including Steve Heyden, Euclid Deodoris, Joshua Millard, Lars Georgsson, Paramon Larasoft, and Kenth Westerberg, and his company, Eastern Metal Securities (EMS), with crimes involving a scheme to defraud victims of more than $16 million. Karlsson was arrested on June 17, 2019, in Thailand and was extradited to the United States to face the charges. A federal grand jury indicted Karlsson and EMS on July 25, 2019.
Karlson carried out the scheme from 2011 till his arrest in 2019. He pulled in investors with promises of astronomical returns, selling shares at less than $100 per share with an agreement of the eventual payout being 1.15 kilograms in gold per share. As of January 2019, that amount of gold was worth around $45,000 according to the DOJ.
At the hearing of the case, Karlson admitted that he had no way of paying the investors both their money invested – which he initially guaranteed to pay back up to 97% in the case of the investments failure – or their promised returns. All monies invested via the scheme’s website www.easternmetalssecurities.com were instead transferred to his personal account and spent by him to purchase several expensive homes, a racehorse, and a resort in Thailand. Notably, he advised investors to make investments using cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin.
As part of the sentence, Karlsson will forfeit the Thai resort and various other properties and accounts and has been issued a money judgment of $16,263,820; the United States is also seeking restitution on behalf of his victims. The DOJ has provided a platform to assist victims of the fraud access the restitutions that will be made on their website.
Notably, cryptocurrencies scams have been on the increase in 2021 as compared to other years. Data from the US’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported in May showed that since October 2020, consumers have reported losing more than $80 million to cryptocurrency investment scams, an increase of more than ten-fold since 2020.
The FTC report highlights that cryptocurrency investment scams take various forms, sometimes starting as offers of investment “tips” or “secrets” in online message boards that redirect people to bogus investment websites, with another common form of the scam involving a promise that a celebrity associated with cryptocurrency will multiply any cryptocurrency you send to their wallet and send it back. Particularly, consumers have reported losing more than $2 million to Elon Musk impersonators alone since October.