4 Cryptocurrency Fraud Schemes Spotlighted in IRS CI’s Top 10 Cases

4 Cryptocurrency Fraud Schemes Spotlighted in IRS CI's Top 10 Cases

The IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) has disclosed its top 10 cases of 2023, representing the most significant incidents of the previous year. CI Chief Jim Lee highlighted that billions of dollars in fraud, victims across the globe, and criminals are all about personal gain.

In a statement to CryptoPotato, Lee said that the CI investigation successfully dismantled international tax schemes that targeted individuals’ personal information, probed multi-level marketing schemes connected to cryptocurrency, and revealed one of the most substantial fraud schemes in history related to renewable fuel credits.

“When I say our team at CI is the best at following the money trail, I mean it.”

Four fraudulent investment schemes related to digital currency have made it to the list.

Bruno Block, the founder of Oyster Pearl cryptocurrency, also known as Amir Bruno Elmaani, has been sentenced to four years in federal prison. Elmaani orchestrated a tax evasion scheme, misrepresenting income related to the Pearl token. He promoted the Pearl tokens in 2017, claiming to develop the Oyster Protocol for online data storage. Elmaani used proxies, including friends and family, to receive cryptocurrency proceeds. Despite significant expenditures in 2018, such as buying yachts, investing in a carbon-fiber composite company, and purchasing homes, he falsely reported no income to the IRS, resulting in a tax loss of approximately $5.5 million.



James Zhong, involved in Silk Road dark web fraud, received a one-year and one-day prison sentence for wire fraud. He unlawfully obtained around 50,000 bitcoins from the Silk Road marketplace in 2012. Over a decade, Zhong executed a complex scheme to steal and conceal the bitcoin’s source, valued at approximately $3.4 billion during forfeiture. The court ordered him to forfeit all his bitcoin, an 80% interest in RE&D Investments LLC, $661,900 in seized U.S. currency, and precious metals seized from his home.


Ian Freeman from New Hampshire was sentenced to 96 months in prison for operating a Bitcoin money laundering scheme. He exchanged over $10 million from romance scams and internet fraud for Bitcoin. By neglecting legal requirements, disabling anti-money laundering features on Bitcoin kiosks, and aiding fraudsters, Freeman facilitated money laundering. He instructed victims to lie about their deposits, evaded taxes from 2016 to 2019, and must pay a $40,000 fine and restitution to victims.


Karl Sebastian Greenwood, co-founder of the OneCoin cryptocurrency scheme, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He, along with Ruja Ignatova (a.k.a Cryptoqueen), orchestrated the massive OneCoin fraud, marketing a fraudulent cryptocurrency through a global multi-level-marketing network. Greenwood was ordered to pay approximately $300 million in forfeiture for his role in the scheme, which attracted over $4 billion in investments from millions of victims.

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