The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is progressing with the sentencing procedure of key individuals behind the cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme AirBit Club.
The office of the U.S. attorney for New York on Oct. 3 announced the sentencing of three of the five surviving defendants in the AirBit case, including Scott Hughes, Cecilia Millan and Karina Chairez. The sentences came months after all three defendants pleaded guilty to money laundering and other charges in the AirBit case in early 2023.
Hughes, an attorney who allegedly laundered approximately $18 million in AirBit Club fraud proceeds, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Millan, a senior-level promoter of AirBit Club, was sentenced to five years in prison. Chairez, another senior-level promoter of AirBit Club, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.
Additionally, Hughes was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Millan and Chairez were also sentenced to three years and three months of supervised release, respectively.
The AirBit Club scheme was launched in late 2015 and was promoted as a “multi-level marketing club” in the cryptocurrency industry. The defendants provided promising presentations to trick investors into thinking that AirBit Club had guaranteed daily returns from crypto mining and trading. But instead of funding AirBit’s promoted crypto operations — which in fact had never been the case — $100 million of investors’ money went to the pockets of its founders and promoters.
Despite some users complaining about withdrawal delays and hidden fees in early 2016, the AirBit Club scheme managed to maintain its fraudulent activity until 2020.
Announcing the sentences, U.S. attorney Damian Williams stressed that Hughes, Millan and Chairez each played a key role in perpetuating the AirBit Club pyramid scheme.
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“At the top-tier of promoters, Millan and Chairez for years aggressively solicited investments from and misled hardworking and unsophisticated investors to line their own pockets,” Williams said, adding:
“Today’s sentences send a message that anyone who facilitates cryptocurrency investment schemes — not only those at the very top of the pyramid — will face serious consequences for such crimes.
This comes after AirBit Club co-founder Pablo Rodriguez was sentenced to 12 years in prison in late September 2023. Dos Santos, another co-founder who has pleaded guilty to charges including wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering and bank fraud conspiracy, is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 4, 2023.
Santos will be the last defendant to be sentenced out of a total six defendants behind AirBit Club. Jackie Aguilar, who pled guilty in February 2023, reportedly passed away in May, a few weeks prior to sentencing.
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