The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday charged the political lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Nevada-based NAC Foundation and its CEO with defrauding investors by conducting a “fraudulent,” unregistered offering of “AML BitCoin,” a digital asset security the defendants claimed was a new and improved version of Bitcoin.
Abramoff agreed to settle the case and be barred from the securities industry.
In separate complaints filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco — one against Abramoff and the other against NAC and its CEO, Marcus Andrade — the SEC claimed NAC raised at least $5.6 million from more than 2,400 retail investors, mainly in the U.S., by selling tokens that could later be converted to AML (Anti-Money Laundering) BitCoin.
According to the SEC’s complaints, NAC and Andrade portrayed AML BitCoin as superior to the original Bitcoin, offering anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism and theft-resistant technology built into the coin on NAC’s own “privately regulated public blockchain.”
In reality, however, none of the capabilities touted by the defendants existed and the development of AML BitCoin and its blockchain technology system was in the very early stages, the SEC alleged.
According to the SEC, Abramoff and Andrade falsely claimed they were on the verge of advertising AML BitCoin during the Super Bowl in an effort to create interest in the offering, despite NAC being unable to afford the cost of the ad.
Super Bowl ads are notoriously expensive, reportedly coming in at more than $5 million for a 30-second spot in each of the past three years.
The defendants also “deceived investors by, among other things, making false and misleading statements in press releases, social media posts, and other promotional materials regarding the status of the technology and governmental agencies’ interest in using AML BitCoin in their payment systems,” according to the SEC. “Many of these false and misleading statements were also disseminated through paid articles that Abramoff arranged and helped write, which purported to be written by independent authors rather than disclosing that they were paid promotions of NAC,” the SEC alleged.
The regulator further alleged that Andrade directed a market manipulation strategy to boost the token’s trading volume and price and diverted about $1.1 million from the offering for his personal use.