Authorities in South Korea have reportedly arrested a group of seven individuals in the province of Jeonbuk for allegedly operating a Bitcoin Ponzi scheme, targeting middle-aged investors with no experience or knowledge in cryptocurrencies.
The scam, which ran from 2015, resulted in 3,900 investors losing $38 million between them. Victims were duped into investing in the Bitcoin investment pool, which promised outsized returns.
Jeonbuk Iksan police department and cybersecurity agency said that the defendants preyed on victims interested in virtual currency, promising them the opportunity to invest in Bitcoin when in reality they only bought into the defendants’ Ponzi scheme. The result, according to prosecutors, is that investors generally lost most if not all of their invested funds.
Investors were convinced to invest in Bitcoin based on the impressive performance of the cryptocurrency in 2017, wherein its price saw value gains of nearly 800% at its high point this week. They were to get back their entire principal after 7 months, yielding an effective annual return of 180%.
Per the allegations in the suit, the police suggest that Jang, who was CEO and head trader of the fund, initially established his firm to help clients invest in the cryptocurrency market. Subsequently, however, he turned the business into a scam and investors were wooed by lavish events and impressive marketing materials.
As in all Ponzi schemes, the purported performance reports were fake, and payouts of supposed profits actually consisted of other customers’ misappropriated funds.
Conspiracy and securities fraud charges, as well as charges of operating an unauthorised investment pool, will be unsealed in court against the seven men, the Korean authorities said.