DoJ Charges Former Banker in Crypto Fraud, to Face 41 Months in Prison

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On May 31, Rashawn Russell, a former investment banker, was sentenced in the Eastern District Court of New York in Brooklyn to 41 months in prison. The Department of Justice (DoJ) charged Russell with wire fraud in a cryptocurrency scheme and an unrelated access device fraud scheme. 

Having pleaded guilty in September, the former Deutsche Bank executive faced a significant downfall from his once-prominent financial career.

DoJ Claims Russell Orchestrated a Crypto Scam

The DOJ detailed that Russell operated the fraudulent R3 Crypto Fund from November 2020 to August 2022. The fund enticed investors with promises of high returns on cryptocurrency investments, some of which were guaranteed. However, the reality was starkly different. 

Russell misappropriated the investors’ money for personal use and to repay other investors in a classic Ponzi scheme. He further deceived investors by falsely claiming to have wired repayments when they requested their money back.

Russell was a Registered Broker with FINRA

Adding to the gravity of his actions, Russell was also a registered broker with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Initially facing up to 30 years in prison for his crimes, he was ultimately sentenced to just over three years and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution to his victims.

As per the DoJ, Russell’s criminal activities extended beyond the R3 Crypto Fund. Between September 2021 and June 2023, he acquired 97 bank cards using at least 43 different identities. These cards were intended for fraudulent transactions, compounding his criminal activities and leading to additional charges.

Russell Plead Guilty to All DoJ Charges

Russell was first charged by the DoJ with the crypto-related count in April 2023 and subsequently pleaded guilty to all charges in September. His conviction highlights the ongoing efforts by authorities to crack down on cryptocurrency-related fraud.

Russell’s sentencing is part of a broader trend of recent legal actions against cryptocurrency fraudsters. Over the past two months, several high-profile cases have resulted in convictions and significant prison sentences.

War Against Crypto Scams

On April 12, Shakeeb Ahmed, a computer security engineer, was sentenced to three years in prison followed by three years of supervised release in the Southern District Court of New York. Ahmed was found guilty of conducting flash loan attacks on crypto exchanges in 2022, which exploited vulnerabilities in the exchanges’ systems.

In another case, on May 15, the DOJ charged brothers Anton Peraire-Bueno and James Pepaire-Bueno with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges stemmed from their manipulation of the Ethereum blockchain, further showcasing the diverse methods used in crypto-related fraud.

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