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New York-based Instagram influencer Jebara Igbara—who went by the online pseudonym Jay Mazini—has pled guilty to an assortment of crimes including stealing $2.5 million worth of from his followers.
Igbara reportedly posted on his Instagram and other social media accounts that he was willing to pay above-market prices for various cryptocurrencies, usually around 3.5% to 5% over their market value.
The influencer reportedly justified the premium by claiming that traditional crypto exchanges were limiting how much Bitcoin he could purchase.
According to the court filing, after receiving the crypto, Igbara would then send his victims doctored images of wire transfer confirmations that purported to show he had sent money for the cryptocurrency as promised.
In reality, the payment was never sent.
Instagram influencer’s Bitcoin scheme
Until he was charged and arrested in March 2021, Igbara maintained a now-defunct Instagram account, which at one point had one million followers, where he would give out large sums of money to people in grocery stores as well as to fast-food workers.
In one of his most popular social media stunts, Igbara handed out over $30,000 of cash at a Burger King in Queens, New York alongside popular rapper 50 Cent.
The Bitcoin theft came as part of a wider set of overlapping fraudulent schemes worth $8 million, where the accused allegedly defrauded members of the Muslim-American community in New York by soliciting their money for purported investments in stock, electronics resale, and purchases of COVID-19 related personal protective equipment (PPE).
He was actually operating a Ponzi scheme alleged the court filing, and “misappropriated nearly all of the money for his personal expenses and gambling,” according to authorities.
Igbara now faces up to 20 years of imprisonment, depending on the decision of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York.
Thomas Fattorusso, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, said that “those in the Ponzi scheme were all assured a high rate of return in a short amount of time, while the victims of the Bitcoin advance fee scheme were guaranteed above current market value for their Bitcoin.”
He added: “This multi-million dollar case is a reminder for anyone thinking of investing: Be skeptical of any investments with larger-than-life promises because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”