In the first case to be filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s new cybercrime unit, two residents of Canada have been charged with misappropriating $15 million from investors through a fraudulent initial coin offering.
The SEC on Monday said the PlexCoin offering was a “full-fledged cyber scam” and that it had obtained a court order freezing the assets of Dominic Lacroix, whom it described as a “recidivist Quebec securities law violator.”
Lacroix’s PlexCorps company and his “romantic partner,” Sabrina Paradis-Royer, were also named as defendants in a civil complaint in which the SEC says Lacroix enticed investors by claiming that if all 400 million PlexCoin tokens for sale were sold, they would reap returns of 1,354% in 29 days or less.
“This first Cyber Unit case hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam and is exactly the kind of misconduct the unit will be pursuing,” Robert Cohen, the unit’s chief, said in a news release. “We acted quickly to protect retail investors from this initial coin offering’s false promises.”
The unit was created in September to focus on misconduct involving distributed ledger technology and initial coin offerings, the spread of false information through electronic and social media, hacking and threats to trading platforms.
According to CNBC, “Industry estimates show early stage start-ups have raised more than $3 billion this year by selling digital coins. The coins, based on the same blockchain technology as skyrocketing digital currency bitcoin, purport to give investors future value in return for monetary contributions.”
The SEC said investors have purchased about 81 million PlexCoin tokens for about $15 million since the ICO was launched in June. Lacroix proceeded with the offering despite being enjoined by Quebec securities regulators and has “misappropriated or attempted to misappropriate at least $200,000 … on extravagant personal expenditures,” the commission said.
“This is an escalation of [the SEC’s] actions, and they are showing their intentions. It’s a good signal for the market they will not tolerate abuses and scams,” William Mougayar, organizer of The Token Summit conferences in New York and San Francisco, told CNBC.