Australian pleads guilty to $90 million crypto fund scam in the U.S.
An Australian citizen has pleaded guilty to cheating investors out of over $90 million by squandering money they invested in his New York-based cryptocurrency funds.
Twenty four-year-old Stefan He Qin entered the plea to a single count of a securities fraud charge in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday, Feb. 4.
According to the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the fraud occurred from 2017 to 2020 as Qin operated the fund titled Virgil Sigma. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:
“Stefan He Qin drained almost all of the assets from the $90 million cryptocurrency fund he owned, stealing investors’ money, spending it on indulgences and speculative personal investments, and lying to investors about the performance of the fund and what he had done with their money,”
She added that Qin then tried to steal money from another fund he controlled called the VQR Multistrategy Fund to meet the redemption demands of the defrauded investors in Virgil Sigma.
Many of the defrauded investors were U.S. citizens and Qin could face up to 20 years in prison at sentencing on May 20.
Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge, Peter Fitzhugh, said that the two New York-based multi-million dollar cryptocurrency investment funds were revealed to be slush funds for his extravagant lifestyle, adding:
“Qin orchestrated this reprehensible criminal scheme for many years, making misrepresentations and false promises that coaxed investors into pouring millions of dollars into fraudulent cryptocurrency firms, all the while stealing the hard-earned money of his investors.”
Virgil Sigma purported to employ a strategy to earn profits from arbitrage opportunities in the cryptocurrency markets. It used a trading algorithm to take advantage of price differences for a number of crypto assets, including Bitcoin, across as many as 40 different exchanges around the world, including three located in the U.S.
Qin was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal in October 2018 when he explained how his arbitrage trading bots worked.
Its public marketing materials claim that Virgil Sigma has been profitable every month from August 2016 to the present, with the sole exception of March 2017.
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