It was a crypto fraud right out of a Steven Seagal flick, complete with a private investigator, a staged kidnapping, and millions of cash that vanished into thin air.
Officials said the scam cost almost 500 investors more than $11 million in cash and a mix of existing cryptocurrencies that they had invested in a claimed crypto-mining company with the promise of up to 200 percent returns in 60-to-90 days.
Instead of reaping enormous profits, the funds were diverted to accounts overseas controlled by Kristijan Krstic, an alleged Serbian-Australian swindler living in the Philippines with a history of fraud charges, according to federal prosecutors and SEC investigators.
Last week, John DeMarr, a 55-year-old California private investigator who served as the scam’s frontman, pleaded guilty to helping run the scam while pocketing nearly $2 million, which he used to buy a Porsche and a BMW, pay off over $1 million in debts, and finance a lavish renovation of his Seal Beach home.
Prosecutors believe the scheme was one of up to 20 such crypto scams carried out by a gang of Serbian nationals, who bilked investors out of up to $70 million.