LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A 62-year-old San Gabriel Valley man scammed more than 70,000 people to the tune of $147 million in a massive digital currency scheme, federal authorities announced Wednesday.
Over a two-year period from 2013 to 2015, Steve Chen of Bradbury received large sums of money ranging from $1,000 to $30,000 from people who believed they were investing in a new digital currency, which Chen told them was backed by billions of dollars’ worth of amber and precious gems, the U.S. attorney’s office reports.READ MORE: Palisades Fire: Hundreds Under Evacuation, 1 Detained For Questioning In Arson Investigation
However, the entire operation was a bogus sham which Chen operated through seven fraudulent companies out of the same Arcadia address, prosecutors said.
One of those fake companies was called U.S. Fine Investment Arts, Inc. (USFIA).
Chen “falsely promoted USFIA as a successful multi-level marketing company that extracted amber and other gemstones from non-existent mines it ‘owned’ in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico,” the DA’s office said in a news release.READ MORE: Man Shot, Killed Outside Hacienda Heights Gas Station
Chen also offered fake bonuses such as cash, travel, luxury cars, L.A.-area homes and visas for immigrant investors, authorities said.
He has since agreed to plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion, the U.S. attorney’s office reports. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison once he pleads guilty. He is due in court March 10.
“Mr. Chen’s promises to investors were as worthless as his non-existent mines and phony digital currency,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna wrote in a statement. “This case should remind all investors that trappings of success may convey legitimacy, but everyone should exercise extreme care when considering giving hard-earned money to any outfit promoting trendy products and extravagant profits.”
Anyone who believes they were victimized by the Chen can visit the following website set up by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought its own case against Chen back in 2015.MORE NEWS: Goldstein Investigates: Scammers Going Old School In Attempt To Defraud EDD
The FBI, IRS and Homeland Security Department assisted in the investigation.