A reality TV couple wanted to “bless” black people who are suffering financially. According to the FTC, it was a pyramid scheme.
The episode coincides with a development in a $250 million Ponzi scheme I’ve been following: Eddy Alexandre, the founder of EminiFX, pleaded guilty to one count of commodity fraud last week.
Alexandre claimed that he developed his own trading system to invest in cryptocurrency and the currency markets, or Forex. Each week, EminiFX’s website erroneously represented returns of at least 5 percent, which investors could withdraw or reinvest, the Justice Department said.
But Alexandre failed to invest “a significant portion” of investors’ money and even used some of the money for personal purchases, U.S. attorney Damian Williams said in a statement following the guilty plea. Alexandre transferred about $14.7 million to his personal bank account, the government said, and spent it $155,000 in investor funds to self a BMW and another $13,000 in car payments, also for a Mercedes-Benz.
Emil Bove, an attorney for Alexandre, did not respond to requests for comment.
The red flags always seem so obvious in the wake of a Ponzi, pyramid or other scheme – the ridiculously inflated and “guaranteed” returns, the insidious way promoters use a trusted friend or even reverend to ingratiate themselves with investors , or the lack of independent verification of the scammers’ claims.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” is tried and true advice. But scammers are adept at showing people what isn’t there.
In retrospect, it seems that people are being scammed were blinded by their own greed, which made them more gullible. It’s how we rationalize that we can’t get scammed.
You can’t cheat on an honest man, can you?
We must remember that these people are victims and everything our attitude can prevent them from reporting these crimes. If they are too embarrassed or embarrassed to admit what happened to them, it allows the plan to continue or encourages others to hunt humans.
I have interviewed many scam victims, including those involved in the EminiFX case. Some were trying to earn money to pay bills, send their kids to college, get out of student loan debt, or, yes, get rich too quick. But their motives shouldn’t make them fair game for crooks.
Yvon Witty from Brooklyn was introduced to EminiFX through a friend. He invested more than $10,000, though he couldn’t understand how Alexandre could consistently achieve a weekly return of 5 percent.
“I tried to make a few bucks, but I end up losing the ones I had,” Witty said in an interview after calling 855-ASK-POST (855-275-7678).
Witty trusted his friend, who, according to him, also lost money. They simply followed the recommendations of others who benefited from the scheme. And that’s typical – early investors can get a payout, but the money in general comes from newer victims. A Ponzi scheme eventually collapses because either fewer investors can be found to keep the scam going or the operation is shut down by the authorities.
The FBI says he was running a crypto Ponzi scheme. Investors refuse to believe it.
Witty admitted that he knew nothing about EminiFX. He was not alone. Most of the investors I spoke to couldn’t explain what the company was doing. “I’m not an online person,” Witty said. He had relied on others to help him navigate the website.
I asked Witty why he was so trusting and whether he felt the need to check something himself.
“No,” he said. “They told me they made money from it, so I did [trusted] them. That was my mistake.”
Even those who cling to a fraudster’s assurance of innocence despite overwhelming evidence of illicit activity should elicit our empathy. In many cases, the victims have built relationships with the fraudsters, making it difficult for them to believe they have been duped.
Crypto scams targeting online acquaintances cost victims billions
Thousands of Alexandre’s victims, many of whom are from Haiti, said they believed he was just trying to help the Haitian and black community build wealth. An investor launched a Change.org campaign in support of Alexandre, and nearly 15,000 people signed the online petition.
Investors still supported the petition even after Alexandre admitted his guilt in court.
“He was loyal to the members and his determination was much appreciated in helping members of EminiFX have a better life,” one investor wrote.
This is a rare occasion where a scheme was shut down quickly enough to find a lot of investor money. Alexandre agreed to forfeit nearly $250 million. But there are tens of thousands of individual investors, the Justice Department said. By the way, everyone involved in EminiFX should visit eminifxreceivership.com for updates on the claim process.
There should be no shame and no stigma when you fall for a scam. Not protecting yourself is not a crime. Running a Ponzi or pyramid scheme is.
Witty agreed to go on record to help others avoid being scammed.
“I don’t have that much money,” he said. “I can’t just give people $10,000. That’s not a good feeling. I’m never going into this again. Never, never again.”