Boaz “Bo” Manor, a convicted hedge fund scammer, has been charged with raising over $30 million from investors in an allegedly fraudulent initial coin offering. Prosecutors say he ditched his real identity, donned red hair, grew a beard and masqueraded as “Shaun MacDonald,” a blockchain entrepreneur. Prior to surfacing in New York, the notorious scammer spent four years in a Canadian prison after his bogus $730-million hedge fund evaporated in 2005.
The latest indictment names Manor’s accomplice, Edith Pardo, and two firms, CG Blockchain Inc. and BCT Inc. SEZC, as defendants. The cohorts allegedly sold crypto asset securities between August of 2017 and September of 2018. According to the complaint, they also falsely claimed to have 20 hedge funds piloting technology to register transactions on a blockchain.
The SEC clarified,
“In reality, the defendants had only sent a prototype to a dozen funds, and none of the funds used it or paid for it.”
Joseph G. Sansone, chief of the SEC’s market abuse division, remarked,
“Manor’s brazen scheme to conceal his identity and criminal history deprived investors of essential information and allowed the defendants to take over $30 million from investors’ pockets.”
Pardo has been arrested, but authorities say Manor remains on the run.
‘I Think XRP Is a Scam’ Says Ben Askren Former UFC Star And Bitcoin Advocate
As regulatory concerns over XRP — the world’s third-biggest crypto asset — have intensified, some celebrities are stepping in to voice more FUD about the coin. Ben Askren, former UFC fighter and known Bitcoin (BTC) bull, has driven more scepticism toward XRP with a short tweet on Jan. 28: “I think XRP is a scam.”
Askren’s latest cryptocurrency verdict builds on a background of previous endorsements of other cryptocurrencies. The famous former Olympic wrestler is not only bullish on Bitcoin, but also supports Charlie Lee-founded Litecoin (LTC), the seventh biggest cryptocurrency by market cap as of press time. In January 2019, Askren was purportedly sponsored by the Litecoin Foundation as the mixed martial arts fighter for UFC 235 event. Subsequently, the UFC fighter appeared on his Instagram wearing a Litecoin-branded t-shirt. The celebrity has also promoted Bitcoin on his Twitter in October 2019:
“Just bought more BTC using @eToro was really easy, now all of you twitter geniuses can tell me Crypto is a scam while my assets go up!”
As Askren has been known as a shill for BTC and LTC for a while, a user on Twitter asked him a question: “The fact @Benaskren is staying quiet on XRP tells me its going to take it a long time if ever to moon.” Askren’s verdict didn’t take long, and a part of the crypto community on Twitter expressed some negative stance toward XRP, while the tweet has amassed over 2,000 likes as of press time.
Askren’s statement about XRP comes amid an already worsened situation around the coin as XRP dropped over 40% from $0.364 in 2019 to $0.183 in December, marking a two-year low. The situation has been exacerbated by rising concerns over the unclear regulatory status of XRP’s issuing company, Ripple, which faces a class-action lawsuit alleging that it held an unregistered sale of securities. Despite all this, CEO Brad Garlinghouse has recently hinted at an initial public offering for Ripple, which undoubtedly has some implications for the fate of altcoin. At press time, XRP is trading at $0.238, up over 1% over the past 24 hours, following a major green trend on crypto markets.
UK High Court Issues A Freeze on $1M of Bitcoin In A Ransomware Case
A United Kingdom High Court ordered a proprietary injunction on Bitcoin (BTC) obtained through a ransomware attack on a Canadian insurance company. A proprietary injunction is an order which prevents a person from dealing with their own assets when it is subject of a proprietary claim. On Jan. 17, the UK High Court released documents concerning a ransomware attack, in which over 1,000 computers of the insurance company were rendered unusable through the use of malware that encrypted files, making them unaccessible.
The unidentified attackers demanded $1.2 million in Bitcoin in exchange for decrypting the data. The firm’s insurer covered the client’s losses from cybercrime and agreed with the hackers to pay $950,000 in Bitcoin to decrypt the files, and received a tool to unlock them 24 hours after making the payment. Still, the company needed 10 days to restore all of its systems, including 20 servers and 1,000 desktop computers.
The company’s insurer hired blockchain major analytics firm Chainalysis to track the ransom. The analysis revealed that most of the Bitcoin, 96 BTC had been immediately laundered through crypto exchange Bitfinex. The court required Bitfinex to provide any information concerning the holder of the account that received the ransom by Dec. 18, 2019. Bitfinex did not clarify the status of the ransomers’ Bitcoin or what data was handed over to the court, stating:
“Bitfinex has robust systems in place to allow it to assist law enforcement authorities and litigants in cases such as this. In this case we have assisted the Claimant to trace the stolen Bitcoin and we understand the focus of the Claimant’s attention is no longer on the Bitfinex platform. It now appears Bitfinex is an entirely innocent party mixed up in this wrongdoing.”
According to a Jan. 25 report from New Money Review, the case is still ongoing. Darragh Connell, the insurance company’s legal representative, said, “Return hearings of the interim injunction will be heard again in due course before Mr Justice Bryan who has reserved the case to himself […] As this is only the interim stage, my client’s claim will need be determined after a trial in the Commercial Court in London.” Ransomware attacks are a major cybersecurity threat and are becoming increasingly advanced. Texas-based data center provider CyrusOne paid a $600,000 ransom in BTC in such an attack. In June 2019, hackers managed to infect the systems of the city council of Riviera Beach with ransomware and encrypt government files. Florida agreed to pay $600,000 worth of Bitcoin to the hackers.
Victims of Dunamiscoins Scam In Ugandan Petition Gov’t For What They Lost
Over 5,000 victims of the alleged cryptocurrency pyramid scheme Dunamiscoins have petitioned the Ugandan Parliament asking to refund money lost in the scam.
Arthur Asiimwe, the leader of the petitioning group who presented the request to the Parliament’s speaker Rebecca Kadaga, claims that the government has licensed the alleged scam firm, according to an official announcement by the Parliament of Uganda on Jan. 16.
First spotted in early December 2019, Dunamiscoins is allegedly involved in defrauding over 10,000 people, causing them losses of around $2.7 million. The apparent scam company reportedly closed its offices just a month after opening, stealing money from its investors and employees after previously promising 40% returns on cash investments. Asiimwe emphasized that the Ugandan government must be held liable for the Dunamiscoins incident:
“Government licensed this company and gave it a go-ahead to work as a non-deposit taking financial institution; it carried out its duties as a microfinance company. They gave unrealistic bonuses.”
As two Dunamiscoins directors stood trial in early January, Asiimwe also pointed out that one of the key individuals behind the scam, Susan Awon, has still remained at large. The group leader expressed dissatisfaction with the status of the investigation, arguing that Ugandan authorities should take further steps to arrest the third director and refund the money.
Subsequently, Parliament’s speaker Kadaga promised to engage with the responsible state authorities in order to solve the issue. According to the official announcement by the Parliament, she said:
“Since you petitioned the President already, I will talk to him and invite the Minister of Finance, Uganda Micro Finance Regulatory Authority next week so we can forge a way forward.”
While Dunamiscoins victims apparently accuse their government of not taking necessary measures to prevent the scam, some media reports claim that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni endorsed the firm earlier. According to local news publication The Independent, the victims told Kadaga that their faith in the company was driven by the President’s endorsement alongside constant media adverts.
Meanwhile, Museveni has definitely taken a positive stance towards both blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Back in 2018, the President met with executives at major global crypto exchange Binance to discuss the developments in the industry.
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