Block letters spelling fraud, with magnifying glass

The operator of a long-running crypto investment fraud has been sentenced to 15 years in prison by a U.S. federal judge.

In March, Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson pled guilty to fraud and money laundering charges in connection with an investment scam he operated from 2011 to 2019, defrauding thousands of retail investors around the world of more than US$16 million worth of cryptocurrency.

On Thursday, he was sentenced to jail time and ordered to forfeit a resort in Thailand and other assets, and the court issued a US$16.2-million monetary judgment. It’s also expected that the court will enter a restitution order on behalf of victims within 90 days.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), Karlsson operated a scheme that induced victims to purchase shares in Eastern Metal Securities, which promised “astronomical returns tied to the price of gold.”

Instead, the DoJ found that he used the proceeds “to purchase expensive homes, a racehorse and a resort.”

“Karlsson’s fraud targeted financially insecure investors, causing severe financial hardship for many of them,” the DoJ said.

U.S. authorities noted that Karlsson used numerous aliases — such as Steve Heyden, Euclid Deodoris, Joshua Millard, Lars Georgsson, Paramon Larasoft and Kenth Westerberg — along with other tactics to hide his scheme, including soliciting investments in crypto, providing fake account statements, and falsely claiming to be working with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to explain delays in making payouts to his victims.

The SEC said the scheme lured victims in 45 countries around the world.

In 2014 the British Columbia Securities Commission issued a warning about Eastern Metal after an investor in B.C. was caught in the scheme.