The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday announced it has obtained an emergency asset freeze to halt a alleged initial coin offering (ICO) fraud that raised up to US$15 million from thousands of investors since August by falsely promising a 13-fold profit in less than a month.
According to the regulator’s announcement, the SEC filed charges against Dominic Lacroix, “a “Quebec securities law violator,” and his company, PlexCorps.
The SEC’s compliant, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, alleges “Lacroix and PlexCorps marketed and sold securities called PlexCoin on the internet to investors in the U.S. and elsewhere, claiming that investments in PlexCoin would yield a 1,354% profit in less than 29 days.”
The SEC also charged Lacroix’s partner, Sabrina Paradis-Royer, in connection with the scheme.
The charges are the first filed by the SEC’s new cyber unit. The unit was created in September to focus the SEC enforcement division’s cyber-related expertise on misconduct involving distributed ledger technology and initial coin offerings, the spread of false information through electronic and social media, hacking and threats to trading platforms.
The SEC has also obtained an emergency court order to freeze the assets of PlexCorps, Lacroix, and Paradis-Royer.
The regulator’s complaint charges Lacroix, Paradis-Royer and PlexCorps with violating anti-fraud laws, and it charges Lacroix and PlexCorps with violating the registration requirements of the U.S. federal securities laws. The allegations have not been proven.
The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus interest and penalties, along with an officer-and-director ban for a Lacroix, and a ban on offering digital securities.
“This first cyber unit case hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam and is exactly the kind of misconduct the unit will be pursuing,” says Robert Cohen, chief of the cyber unit, in a statement. “We acted quickly to protect retail investors from this initial coin offering’s false promises.”
In August, the Autorité des marchés financiers issued a warning about Plexcoin, and reported that the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal had issued various orders against PlexCorps, Lacroix, and otter companies. It also ordered Facebook Canada Ltd. to shut down the accounts of PlexCorps and PlexCoin.