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12 years in jail for AirBit Club co-founder

Pablo Renato Rodriguez defrauded investors of $100 million by leading them to believe they were investing in Bitcoin mining and trading operations.

Pablo Renato Rodriguez, co-founder of the now-defunct crypto “mining and trading” company AirBit, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for leading a massive global pyramid scheme. 

Rodriguez launched AirBit in 2015 and led investors into believing they were investing in crypto mining and trading operations via club “memberships”. 

After parting with their cash, victims would be directed to an online portal to view their purported profits accumulate. These profits however were false. No Bitcoin mining or trading took place – instead, Rodriguez and his team used the funds to buy luxury goods including cars, jewellery and luxury real estate.

The ruling outlines that Rodriguez and his co-conspirators travelled the world hosting “lavish expos and small community presentations” aimed at convincing victims to invest.

Related Thodex CEO faces jail time in Türkiye over tax offences

Announcing the prosecution, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Rodriguez co-founded and led an international multimillion-dollar pyramid scheme that preyed on mostly unsophisticated investors with false promises that their money was being invested in cryptocurrency trading and mining.”

He added, “Instead of investing on behalf of investors, Rodriguez hid victims’ money in a complex laundering scheme using Bitcoin, an attorney trust account, and international front and shell companies and used victims’ money to line his own pockets.”

Williams said that the sentence should deter anyone “who may be tempted” to defraud others with false promises of crypto investments. 

In addition to the 12 year prison sentence, Rodriguez must forfeit $65 million, in addition to:

  • $999,936 held in escrow by Insured International Aircraft Title Service LLC for a Gulfstream Jet.
  • 3,821 Bitcoin ($100 million)) seized from various Bitcoin wallets.
  • $896,483.00 in US dollars seized from Rodriguez’s California residence.
  • His residence located at 117 Amber Sky in the City of Irvine, California 92618.
  • Various watches and jewelry seized from Rodriguez’s California residence.

Rodriguez will also face three years of supervised release following his 12 year sentence.

Prosecutors are slowly cleaning up the crypto market

As a new market, crypto has attracted a plethora of fraudsters who exploit the lack of knowledge around cryptocurrency to defraud well-meaning investors. 

Prosecutors around the world have closed on in such fraudsters over the past year, giving heavy handed sentences to those found guilty of offenses.

On September 12, Karl Greenwood, co-founder of the notorious Ponzi scheme OneCoin, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The scheme raised over $4 billion from millions of investors, despite it having no real value. 

Related: Former OpenSea exec will self-surrender to prison after withdrawing bail application

Prosecuting, US Attorney Damian Williams described the fraud as “one of the largest fraud schemes ever perpetrated”. 

Greenwood’s co-conspirator, Ruja Ignatova, otherwise known as “the crypto queen”, is currently on the FBI’s most wanted list, where she has been since June 2022.

In Turkiyë, prosecutors have been even more extreme, recently sentencing Thodex co-founder Faruk Fatih Özer to 11,000 years in prison for fleeing with $2 billion in user funds. 

Related: 11,000 years in jail for Thodex CEO who fled with $2B in user funds

Disclaimer: CryptoPlug does not recommend that any cryptocurrency should be bought, sold, or held by you. Do conduct your own due diligence and consult your financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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