Stefan Qin’s investors thought they’d stumbled across a sure thing: a hedge fund that was making 500 percent returns by leveraging price differences between cryptocurrencies on 40 different exchanges around the world.
Instead, the 24-year-old self-proclaimed math wiz spent their money on a luxury lifestyle, including a $US23,000-per-month Manhattan penthouse residence and failed initial coin offerings and real estate investments. According to federal authorities, Qin scammed over 100 people out of $US90 million ($123 million).
Following comments from several of Qin’s victims that he should serve as much time as possible in prison for securities fraud, US District Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison on Wednesday (local time), calling him “a potentially extremely dangerous individual.”
According to Caproni, Qin “deliberately and intentionally picked a path” to defraud investors, including falsifying account statements and lying to them about how he was spending their money. “White-collar crime has just as much of an impact on victims as other sorts of crime, and it will be harshly punished.”
The judge also stated that the penalty was meant to deter others from committing similar crimes and to safeguard the public from Qin, who had no qualms about lying to his investors.
Lot of investors had written letters to the judge, including several who claimed to have lost their entire life savings to Qin – an Australian who was accepted into a programme for high-potential entrepreneurs at the University of New South Wales in 2016 with a proposal to use blockchain technology to speed up foreign exchange transactions, but dropped out to found Virgil Sigma Fund.
Qin told the judge “He felt absolutely heartbroken to read the letters, many of whom were family, friends or business associates.”
“I feel ashamed to look them in the eye and tell them I’m sorry, but I must,” he said.