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Digital currency scammer gets 6 months in jail over $20M fraud

A man who allegedly defrauded initial coin offering (ICO) issuers has been sentenced to six months in prison by a U.S. court. Jerry Ji Guo allegedly defrauded his clients over $20 million worth of digital currencies.

The 33-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in August 2019. He admitted to having posed as an ICO consultant at the height of the 2017 ICO craze. He promised he would perform marketing and publicity services for his clients.

However, as per a Department of Justice press release, he never performed any of the services he received payment for. Instead, he defrauded multiple clients and embezzled their cash and digital currencies.

A federal grand jury indicted Guo on November 15, 2018, charging him with eight counts of wire fraud. The San Francisco resident pleaded guilty to one count, and the rest were dismissed.

One of the key reasons for the dismissal and the lenient sentencing is Guo’s cooperation with the government. The DoJ revealed that he had assisted the government to identify and return ill-gotten property through the forfeiture process. The process started in November 2019, with the government obtaining the final order of forfeiture in February last year.

“Accordingly, the government now is in a position to return the stolen property to the victims,” the DoJ stated. The DoJ will use the victim restoration process to return the stolen property to Guo’s victims.

Guo was ordered by the Northern District of California to pay $4,392,636.14 in restitution, in addition to his six-month prison sentence. He also has to serve a three-year supervised release.

FBI Special Agent Craig Fair cautioned the public against thinking that digital currencies were above the reach of law enforcement agencies. While they may be more difficult to trace, there are tools in place to ensure digital currency users are held accountable for their actions, he stated.

U.S. Attorney David Anderson added, “Some criminals believe mistakenly that cryptocurrency is beyond the reach of law enforcement. This case shows we can use criminal forfeiture to compensate fraud victims even when cryptocurrency is used in the fraud.”

Law enforcement agencies have stepped up their fight against illicit digital currency usage in recent months. In the U.S., a $147 million scam operator recently got 10 years behind bars. In India, police arrested the operator of a $340,000 digital currency scam earlier this month.

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