The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it has filed an action against five individuals alleging that they promoted a global unregistered digital asset securities offering that raised over $2 billion from retail investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from approximately January 2017 to January 2018, BitConnect used a network of promoters, including U.S.-based Trevon Brown (a.k.a. Trevon James), Craig Grant, Ryan Maasen, and Michael Noble (a.k.a. Michael Crypto) to market and sell securities in its “lending program.” The SEC’s complaint alleges that these promoters offered and sold the securities without registering the securities offering with the Commission, and without being registered as broker-dealers with the Commission, as required by the federal securities laws. The promoters advertised the merits of investing in BitConnect’s lending program to prospective investors, including by creating “testimonial” style videos and publishing them on YouTube, sometimes multiple times a day. According to the complaint, the promoters received commissions based on their success in soliciting investor funds. Another U.S.-based individual, Joshua Jeppesen, served as a liaison between BitConnect and promoters and represented BitConnect at conferences and promotional events.
“We allege that these defendants unlawfully sold unregistered digital asset securities by actively promoting the BitConnect lending program to retail investors,” said Lara Shalov Mehraban, Associate Regional Director of SEC’s New York Regional Office. “We will seek to hold accountable those who illegally profit by capitalizing on the public’s interest in digital assets.”
The SEC’s complaint charges the promoter defendants with violating the registration provisions of the federal securities laws, and Jeppesen with aiding and abetting BitConnect’s unregistered offer and sale of securities. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement plus interest, and civil penalties.
The SEC’s ongoing investigation is being conducted by Gwen Licardo of the SEC’s Retail Strategy Task Force, Michael Baker and Pamela Sawhney of the SEC’s Cyber Unit, and Jordan Baker of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. The case is being supervised by John O. Enright, Ms. Mehraban and Kristina Littman, Chief of the Cyber Unit. The litigation is being conducted Jorge Tenreiro, Mark Sylvester, Ms. Licardo, Mr. Baker, and Ms. Sawhney. The Commission appreciates the assistance of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Ontario Securities Commission, the Romanian Financial Supervisory Authority, and the Thailand Securities and Exchange Commission.