Brazilian police have swooped on an alleged crypto pyramid scheme that appears to have sucked in a top model, soccer players, and more to the tune of $769 million.
Per Globo and UOL, police believe that an individual nicknamed the “Bitcoin Sheik” (real name Francisley Valdevino da Silva) masterminded the project, which revolves around a company named Forcount and a token named mindexcoin. Brazilian media outlets reported that the coin “has no market value” and is not listed on exchanges.
Source: Federal Police
Francisley was described as the “main target” of a major operation named Poyais, launched by the Federal Police, who appear to have been tipped off by disgruntled investors. Some 100 police officers conducted a total of 20 raids across the nation – taking in states such as Santa Catarina, São Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro.
Lawyers representing the alleged victims have claimed that Forcount and mindexcoin are fronts for a financial pyramid whereby high-level investors were told they could expect to earn more by recruiting members. The would-be investors were told that they could “rent” coins – and that doing so would allow them to make 20% profits on their initial stakes.
One of the highest-profile “victims” to emerge thus far is the model, TV personality, and actress Sasha Meneghel who reportedly decided to invest in the alleged scheme after meeting the “Sheik” at an evangelical Christian church service.
A number of unnamed soccer players were also allegedly among the victims, Globo added.
Operation Poyais – Busting a Crypto ‘Pyramid’
The police explained that they had seized caches of gold bars, as well as luxury watches, and mountains of cash. They added that properties had also been seized and bank accounts had been frozen.
Source: Federal Police
Officers explained that the project had attracted money from thousands of investors based in Brazil, as well as the United States, and “at least 10 other countries.”
Police spokespeople also added that – in classic Ponzi style – the project’s operators appear to have used new investors’ money to pay early-stage investors.
But much of the money was instead used by those at the top of the “pyramid” to pay for “high-cost real estate, luxury cars, boats, designer clothes, and jewellery, officers said.
Media outlets added that the United States Department of Homeland Security was also involved in the operation.
The “Sheik” is based in the city of Curitiba, and had claimed to head a vast team of elite crypto traders.
Last month, officers raided 15 companies in a bust that targeted an alleged “crypto pyramid,” while this week a Brazilian court granted a bank permission to search a debtors’ crypto wallets for assets.