A South African man has been charged with fraud in the Maryland District Court for allegedly scamming $28 million from over 1,000 investors.
Dennis Jali, a former resident of Maryland, targeted church-going African immigrants, promising them guaranteed returns on his supposed bitcoin (BTC) and foreign currency investment pool.
In a press statement, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it jointly charged Jali and two accomplices for orchestrating the â€œPonzi schemeâ€.
Arley Ray Johnson and John Frimpong, both of Maryland, fraudently solicited money from investors, who contributed $28 million to three companies â€“ 1st Million LLC, Smart Partners LLC, and Access to Assets LLC, it said.
The duo compelled participants to trade in BTC and forex through pooled trading accounts controlled by Jali, added the statement. The alleged scheme operated from 2017 to 2020, drawing in more than 1,000 investors.
Investors were led to sign â€œsecure contractsâ€ that promised guaranteed returns of up to 30% per month. The conspirators allegedly told investors that their funds would be fully restored at the end of the pool participation term.
Johnson and Frimpong also touted Jali as a brilliant career trader who had made 1,700% in returns in a previous investment fund. The South African claimed in his online promotional videos that he had returned over 400% in gains within six weeks and that â€œmy wife has never worked a day in her life.â€
However, the trio did not invest any of the money in bitcoin or foreign currency, according to the CFTC charge. Instead, they turned the scheme into a Ponzi, using $18 million to pay selected investors, creating the illusion of profitability. Jali and his co-conspirators allegedly used $7 million of the pool money to buy luxury cars and fund other expensive lifestyles.
The CFTC charge is seeking full restitution to defrauded investors, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties and permanent trading bans for the three. The SEC also named Access to Assets as a relief defendant, â€œseeking the return of proceeds of the alleged fraud to which it had no legitimate claim.â€
Jali fled the United States in May 2019 after being indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland but has since been arrested in South Africa, on federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering.