At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has halted the activities of four individuals who allegedly promoted deceptive money-making schemes involving cryptocurrencies. These schemes falsely promised that participants could earn large returns by paying cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or Litecoin to enroll in the schemes.
The complaint was filed under seal on February 16 and announced today. It alleges that three defendants – Thomas Dluca, Louis Gatto, and Eric Pinkston – promoted chain referral schemes known as Bitcoin Funding Team and My7Network. Using websites, YouTube videos, social media and conference calls, the defendants promised big rewards for a small payment of bitcoin or Litecoin.
The complaint alleges what amounts to a classic pyramid scheme. The defendants claimed that Bitcoin Funding Team could turn a payment of the equivalent of just over $100 into $80,000 in monthly income. The FTC alleges, however, that the structure of the schemes ensured that few would benefit. In fact, the majority of participants would fail to recoup their initial investments.
According to the FTC, Bitcoin Funding Team and My7Network participants could only generate revenue by recruiting new participants and convincing them to also pay cryptocurrency. For example, Bitcoin Funding Team participants were required to make an initial bitcoin payment to an earlier participant and pay a fee to Bitcoin Funding Team. With these payments, participants were eligible to recruit new members and receive payments from them. Promoters claimed participants could earn bigger rewards if they paid additional bitcoins.