US authorities charge operators of cryptocurrency scam AirBit Club with fraud and money laundering

Maria Nikolova

Pablo Renato Rodriguez, Gutemberg Dos Santos, Scott Hughes, Cecilia Millan, and Jackie Aguilar have been charged for their roles in an internationally coordinated fraud and money laundering ring responsible for defrauding individuals through investments in AirBit Club.

US authorities have announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Pablo Renato Rodriguez, Gutemberg Dos Santos, Scott Hughes, Cecilia Millan, and Jackie Aguilar for their roles in an international scheme responsible for defrauding individuals through investments in AirBit Club, a purported cryptocurrency mining and trading company.

According to the allegations in indictment unsealed on Tuesday, Rodriguez, Dos Santos, Hughes, Millan, and Aguilar participated in a coordinated scheme in which investors were induced to invest in AirBit Club based on the promise of guaranteed profits in exchange for cash investments in club “memberships”. Beginning in late 2015, AirBit Club, through its founders, Rodriguez and Dos Santos, as well as its promoters, including Millan and Aguilar, marketed AirBit Club as a multilevel marketing club in the cryptocurrency industry. Promoters falsely promised the victims that AirBit Club earned returns on cryptocurrency mining and trading and that victims would earn passive, guaranteed daily returns on any membership purchased.

While the victims saw “profits” accumulate on their Online Portal, those representations were false. Instead, Rodriguez, Dos Santos, Millan, and Aguilar enriched themselves, and spent victim money on cars, jewelry, and luxury homes, and financed extravagant expos to recruit more victims.

Hughes, an attorney licensed to practice law in California, had previously represented Rodriguez and Dos Santoos in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation related to another investment scheme known as Vizinova before aiding the duo in perpetrating the AirBit Club Scheme by, among other things, helping to remove negative information about AirBit Club and Vizinova from the Internet.

In many instances, as early as 2016, victims who attempted to withdraw money from the AirBit Club Online Portal and complained to a promoter faced excuses, delays, and hidden fees amounting to more than 50% of the victim’s requested withdrawal, if they were able to make any withdrawal at all. In one instance, AGUILAR told one Victim of the AirBit Club Scheme who was complaining about her inability to withdraw AirBit Club returns that she should “bring new blood” into the AirBit Club Scheme in order to receive her returns.

Rodriguez, Dos Santos, Hughes, and Millan sought to conceal the AirBit Club Scheme by laundering the scheme’s proceeds through several domestic and foreign bank accounts, including an attorney trust account managed by Hughes. In total, the defendants laundered at least $20 million in proceeds of the scheme.

The wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges each carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison, and the bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 30 years in prison.

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