Diamonds may be forever, but the ICOs of yesteryear are nearing the end of their run.
Argyle Coin, which pitched itself as a “diamond-backed cryptocurrency,” is allegedly at the center of a $30 million ponzi scheme, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
On Tuesday, the SEC announced it has obtained a temporary restraining order that puts a stop to Argyle Coin’s operations, which the Commission claims has already reeled in more than 300 investors across the United States and Canada.
The SEC alleges that the Florida-based Argyle Coin, and its principal owner Jose Angel Aman, raised the funds through the sale of unregistered securities, and then used the money to pay investors their “purported returns” in other associated businesses.
“As alleged, this fraud is a continuation of a scheme Aman orchestrated with two other companies he owns, Natural Diamonds Investment Co. (Natural Diamonds) and Eagle Financial Diamond Group Inc (Eagle),” which dates back to as early as May 2014, according to a press release issued by the SEC.
The Commission claims that Aman and his associates engaged in an “unregistered offering of securities” in the form of investment contracts in Natural Diamonds, fooling investors into believing that their money was being used to acquire “fancy colored diamonds” to be cut, polished, and resold for profit.
But there were never any diamonds, says the SEC. And when this “scam” was tapped for all it was worth, Aman then allegedly moved on to raisie more money through more of the same phony promises, culminating in a 2017 ICO.
In other words, the Commission is alleging that the Argyle Coin ICO was simply a means to perpetuate an old-fashioned, Bernie Madoff-style scam—raise more and more money from more and more investors, paying back the ones who bought in early as you go, and keeping most of it for yourself.
“Aman, Natural Diamonds, Eagle, and Argyle Coin, misused or misappropriated more than $10 million of investor funds to pay other investors their purported returns and for Aman's personal expenses, including rent on his home, purchases of horses, and riding lessons for his son,” the SEC claims.
The SEC’s complaint charges Argyle Coin, Aman, and others who have ownership stakes in Aman’s businesses, with violations of U.S. securities laws and fraud. The Commission’s TRO freezes Aman and his companies’ assets, and the SEC is now asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for disgorgement of any illicit gains and other penalties.