The Securities and Exchange Commission sent out a press release today announcing that “Crypto Entrepreneur” Justin Sun is being charged with fraud over his manipulation of the crypto market. That’s great news, but also of interest is the fact a whole range of celebrities were charged alongside him.
Sun, along with three of his companies (Tron Foundation Limited, BitTorrent Foundation Ltd. and Rainberry Inc), are accused of selling crypto through extremely shady, MLM-like promotional deals, none of which were registered and which as a result violate the Securities Act. He’s then accused of violating the “antifraud and market manipulation provisions of...federal securities laws” by “orchestrating a scheme to artificially inflate the apparent trading volume” of his own cryptocurrencies:
The SEC’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Sun and his companies offered and sold TRX and BTT as investments through multiple unregistered “bounty programs,” which directed interested parties to promote the tokens on social media, join and recruit others to Tron-affiliated Telegram and Discord channels, and create BitTorrent accounts in exchange for TRX and BTT distributions. The complaint further alleges that Sun, BitTorrent Foundation, and Rainberry offered and sold BTT in unregistered monthly airdrops to investors, including in the United States, who purchased and held TRX in Tron wallets or on participating crypto asset trading platforms. According to the complaint, each of these unregistered offers and sales violated Section 5 of the Securities Act.
The Commission also alleges that Sun violated the antifraud and market manipulation provisions of the federal securities laws by orchestrating a scheme to artificially inflate the apparent trading volume of TRX in the secondary market. From at least April 2018 through February 2019, Sun allegedly directed his employees to engage in more than 600,000 wash trades of TRX between two crypto asset trading platform accounts he controlled, with between 4.5 million and 7.4 million TRX wash traded daily. This scheme required a significant supply of TRX, which Sun allegedly provided. As alleged, Sun also sold TRX into the secondary market, generating proceeds of $31 million from illegal, unregistered offers and sales of the token.
All of which is bad! But alongside Sun the SEC also charged a number of people he had hired to promote his crypto scam, alleging they had been “illegally touting” the currency “without disclosing that they were compensated for doing so and the amount of their compensation”.
Also bad! The eight celebrities named are
• Lindsay Lohan
• Jake Paul
• DeAndre Cortez Way (Soulja Boy)
• Austin Mahone
• Michele Mason (Kendra Lust)
• Miles Parks McCollum (Lil Yachty)
• Shaffer Smith (Ne-Yo)
• Aliaune Thiam (Akon)
If you’re wondering about potential punishments for these sneaky salespeople, the SEC say that everyone except Soulja Boy and Austin Mahone have “agreed to pay a total of more than $400,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to settle the charges, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings”.