What do you get when you put Steven Seagal, a private eye, and an Australian-Serbian scammer together? A fraud resulting in a combined loss of more than $11 million dollars for nearly 500 investors.
This is just one of many similar crypto-mining scams that have tricked investors out of tens of millions of dollars over the last year or so, but it’s one that’s grabbed a lot of attention because of the larger-than-life cast of characters involved.
How Did the Crypto Scam Work?
The scam starts with a company called “Start Options,” one of many similar online investment platforms springing up with the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The platform offered crypto mining and trading services and claimed that it owned huge crypto-mining farms in China.
The fake company advertised that it was looking for investors and that it could give them huge returns on their investments — anywhere from 25% to 200% within two months. Once investors fell for this too-good-to-be-true promise, they received false reports showing how their investments were rapidly growing.
However, the reality was that their money wasn’t really invested in anything. It was actually being funneled to offshore accounts controlled by the scammers.
When the duped investors eventually started trying to withdraw their funds, they were informed that they were being rolled over into the initial offering of a new, unregistered cryptocurrency called Bitcoiin2Gen (B2G), and that they would receive even higher returns on their investments.
No investors were ever given any of their money back and the scammers eventually disappeared with millions.
Who Was Responsible?
The mastermind behind the crypto scam was Kristijan Krstic, an Australian-Serbian scammer with a history of fraud. For the purposes of this particular scam, he assumed the false identity of Felix Logan, the “Chief Financial Officer” of Start Options.
The current whereabouts of Krstic are not known, but the SEC has said it believes he is in custody in Serbia.
The frontman for the scam was John DeMarr, a 55-year-old, California-based private investigator. He was enlisted to promote the company Start Options at the beginning of the crypto scam.
John DeMarr claimed he was unaware that the company was a fraud when he was enlisted to promote it and did not know Krstic’s true identity.
However, DeMarr pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He is awaiting sentencing in January 2022 and could face up to five years in prison.
What Role Did Steven Seagal Play?
By now you’re probably wondering: how did action movie star Steven Seagal get wrapped up in all this?
Well, he was contracted by B2G to be a brand ambassador for the company, with a promise of $250,000 and $750,000 in B2G coin being made.
Seagal promoted the fraudulent company to his more than 7 million combined followers on Facebook and Twitter, urging them not to miss out on the opportunity to invest in the new B2G coin.
When Krstic disappeared with more than $7 million in the offshore accounts he had funneled investors’ money into, Seagal’s manager claimed that he had been scammed just like everyone else and that he had only been paid a portion of the $250,000 he had been promised.
The SEC alleged that Seagal had failed to disclose the sum of payments he received, allegations which he neither confirmed nor denied. The actor went on to settle with the SEC in February 2020, agreeing to pay more than $300,000 in fines.
To conclude this strange saga, frontman DeMarr faked his own kidnapping to try and get angry investors off his back. He claimed he had gone to Montenegro to sell their B2G coins and that they would all get their money back, but the “company” then issued a statement that he had been assaulted and disappeared in Montenegro.
Can You Recover Money From a Crypto Scam?
Though crypto scams have increased more than 1000% over the last year, there is still hope for those who have been scammed. If you fall victim to a crypto scam or another type of online investment scam, there are ways to get your funds back.
One of the easiest ways to try and get your money back is through a chargeback. This involves contacting your bank or your credit card issuer to explain your situation and request that they reverse any payments you’ve made to fraudulent companies.
You typically have to write a formal letter explaining how you were scammed and include the dates and sums of any charges you want to be reversed. You should also include any evidence you have of the scam, such as emails where you requested your funds back and were denied.
If a chargeback doesn’t work, another way you can often successfully get reimbursed is by hiring a fund recovery specialist company, such as Payback LTD.
At Payback LTD, we have a team of financial and cybercrime experts who specialize in recovering money from cryptocurrency scams and other types of investment scams.
We are experienced in dealing with all kinds of crypto frauds and have a great track record of retrieving our clients’ funds.
If you’ve been the victim of a cryptocurrency scam, don’t hesitate to contact us and discuss your case. We’ll do everything in our power to get your money back by hitting the scammers where it hurts most: their processing and banking funnels.