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David Zaslowsky

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On September 21, 2020, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the regulatory agency charged with overseeing banks, published an interpretive letter clarifying national banks’ and federal savings associations’ authority to hold “reserves” on behalf of customers who issue certain stablecoins. Generally, a stablecoin is a type of cryptocurrency designed to have a stable value as compared with other types of cryptocurrency, which frequently experience significant volatility. One type of stablecoin is…

On September 15, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges against Unikrn Inc., an operator of an online eSports gaming and gambling platform for conducting an unregistered initial coin offering (ICO) of digital asset securities. Unikrn agreed to settle the charges by paying a $6.1 million penalty, substantially all of the company’s assets, to be distributed to investors through a Fair Fund. According to the SEC’s order, between June and October 2017, Unikrn raised approximately…

Around the New Year, we posted about the pilot program launched in the Bahamas for its central bank digital currency (CBDC), known as the Sand Dollar. It has apparently been successful because Bloomberg is reporting that the country will roll out the e-currency nationwide in October. Sand Dollar transfers are made by mobile phone. Each Sand Dollar is pegged to the Bahamian dollar, which is, in turn, pegged to the U.S. dollar. There are, currently…

On August 13, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges against Virginia-based Boon.Tech and its chief executive officer Rajesh Pavithran for fraud and registration violations in connection with a $5 million initial coin offering of digital asset securities.  According to the SEC’s from November 2017 to January 2018, Boon.Tech and Pavithran raised approximately $5 million by selling Boon Coins to more than 1,500 investors in the U.S. and worldwide to raise funding to…

In December 2019, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted Larry Dean Harmon for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, in violation of the District of Columbia’s Money Transmitters Act (MTA). He was charged in connection with his alleged operation of Helix, an underground tumbler for bitcoin. As described in the indictment, Helix “enabled customers, for a fee, to send bitcoins to designated recipients in a manner which was designed to conceal and…

On July 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Kais Mohammad, a.k.a. “Superman29,” agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges that he operated an illegal virtual-currency money services business that exchanged up to $25 million – including on behalf of criminals – through in-person transactions and a network of Bitcoin ATM-type kiosks. According to his plea agreement, from December 2014 to November 2019, Mohammad owned and operated Herocoin, an illegal virtual-currency money…

Just yesterday, we reported on a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for allegedly obtaining information improperly from Coinbase about its accountholders. Now, the Block is reporting that the IRS has entered into a contract with Coinbase to use its Coinbase Analytics blockchain tracing software. The one-year contract, for $124,950, commences on July 23, 2020. According to the report, the IRS had signaled its intention to buy a software license from Coinbase in…

We previously reported that, in July 2019, the IRS announced that it had begun sending the now infamous letters to taxpayers who, supposedly, may have failed to properly report income and pay taxes associated with cryptocurrency transactions. About 10,000 of these Letter 6173 were sent. On tax day (July 15 this year) the IRS was sued in connection with these letters. The complaint alleges that Plaintiff James Harper opened an account with Coinbase in 2013. …

On July 13, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged California-based Abra (a crypto investment app maker) and a related firm in the Philippines for offering and selling security-based swaps to retail investors without registration and for failing to transact those swaps on a registered national exchange. In a parallel action, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued an order filing and settling charges against both companies for entering into illegal off-exchange swaps in…

On July 7, 2020, the Texas State Securities Board issued an Order against Mirror Trading International (MTI) to cease operations immediately, alleging the South African bitcoin and forex trading network is a multilevel marketing scam. According to the Order, Mirror Trading, controlled by Cornelius Johannes “Johan” Steynberg, is recruiting multilevel marketers to illegally sell fraudulent investments in a bitcoin and forex pool. Investors allegedly purchase the products by transferring bitcoin to Mirror Trading. Mirror Trading…