BitFunder operator Jon Montroll pleads guilty to securities fraud, obstruction of justice

Maria Nikolova

Each of the two charges carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

In line with an earlier FinanceFeeds’ report about Jon Montroll, operator of purported Bitcoin platform BitFunder, being close to a plea agreement with the US authorities, the defendant has pled guilty to two charges.

On Monday, July 23, 2018, Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Montroll, a/k/a “Ukyo,” pled guilty to securities fraud and obstruction of justice. Each of these charges carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As he admitted today, Jon Montroll deceived his investors and then attempted to deceive the SEC. He repeatedly lied during sworn testimony and misled SEC staff to avoid taking responsibility for the loss of thousands of his customers’ bitcoins.”

Montroll allegedly operated two online bitcoin services: WeExchange Australia, Pty. Ltd. (WeExchange) and BitFunder.com (BitFunder). WeExchange functioned as a bitcoin depository and currency exchange service. BitFunder facilitated the purchase and trading of virtual shares of business entities that listed their virtual shares on the BitFunder platform.

Between the launch of Bitfunder, in or about December 2012, and at least in or about July 2013, Montroll converted a portion of WeExchange users’ bitcoins to his personal use without the users’ knowledge or consent. He exchanged bitcoins taken from WeExchange into US dollars, then spent those funds on personal expenses, such as travel.

In addition, since July 18, 2013, Montroll has promoted a security referred to as “Ukyo.Loan.” He encouraged investors to “think of [Ukyo.Loan] as a sort of round-about investment” in BitFunder and WeExchange and, at the same time, described Ukyo.Loan as “a personal loan” and “for private investment purposes.”

During the summer of 2013, one or more individuals (the so-called “Hackers”) exploited a weakness in the BitFunder programming code to cause BitFunder to credit the Hackers with profits they did not, in fact, earn. As a result, the Hackers were able to wrongfully withdraw from WeExchange approximately 6,000 bitcoins, with the majority of those coins being wrongfully withdrawn between July 28, 2013, and July 31, 2013. Due to this “exploit”, BitFunder and WeExchange lacked the bitcoins necessary to cover what Montroll owed to users.

Montroll did not disclose what happened to users of BitFunder and WeExchange, or investors in Ukyo.Loan. Instead, he continued to promote and sell Ukyo.Loan to customers and, on at least one occasion, falsely represented to customers that BitFunder was commercially successful. As a result of his omissions and misrepresentations, the defendant raised approximately 978 bitcoins through Ukyo.Loan after his discovery of the Hackers’ actions.

The New York Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commenced an investigation into BitFunder and the “exploit”. During the course of the investigation, Montroll provided the SEC with a falsified screenshot purportedly documenting, among other things, the total number of bitcoins available to BitFunder users in the WeExchange Wallet as of October 13, 2013. Additionally, during sworn investigative testimony on two occasions he provided materially false and misleading answers to certain questions.

Montroll will be sentenced by Judge Berman at a date to be determined.

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