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$100M AirBit Club Crypto Ponzi Ringleader Sentenced to 12 Years Behind Bars

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • Pablo Renato Rodriguez, AirBit Club co-founder, sentenced to 12 years for running a global crypto pyramid scheme.
  • The fraudulent operation, which defrauded investors of approximately $100 million, involved money laundering through Bitcoin.
  • Rodriguez's sentencing signifies a crucial step towards maintaining the integrity of the cryptocurrency market and protecting investors.
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Pablo Renato Rodriguez, a co-founder of AirBit Club, has been sentenced to a 12-year prison term. Rodriguez was a key player in a global crypto pyramid scheme that defrauded investors of approximately $100 million.

Rodriguez and his co-defendants were ordered to forfeit the fraudulent proceeds, including US currency, Bitcoin, and real estate.

AirBit Club Crypto Scheme Perps Brought to Justice

The Southern District of New York’s US Attorney, Damian Williams, announced the sentencing. Rodriguez and Gutemberg dos Santos co-founded AirBit Club, marketing it as a crypto mining and trading firm.

However, it was a sophisticated money laundering operation that deceived investors into parting with their money.

Co-defendants Dos Santos, Scott Hughes, Cecilia Millan, and Karina Chairez have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting their sentencing.

The AirBit Club scam was a well-orchestrated scheme. Rodriguez and his co-conspirators lured unsuspecting victims into investing in AirBit Club. They promised guaranteed profits in exchange for cash investments in club memberships.

Williams expanded on this, saying:

“Rodriguez co-founded and led an international multimillion-dollar pyramid scheme that preyed on mostly unsophisticated investors with false promises that their money was being invested in cryptocurrency trading and mining.  Instead of investing on behalf of investors, Rodriguez hid victims’ money in a complex laundering scheme using Bitcoin, an attorney trust account, and international front and shell companies and used victims’ money to line his own pockets.” 

However, no Bitcoin mining or trading ever took place on behalf of the investors. Instead, the co-conspirators used the victims’ money for personal enrichment, buying luxury homes, cars, and jewelry and hosting extravagant expos to recruit more victims.

Read more: 15 Most Common Crypto Scams To Look Out For

Not the First Rodeo

Rodriguez’s fraudulent activities are not new. Before the AirBit Club scam, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued him and Dos Santos for a similar pyramid investment scheme known as Vizinova. They ended up paying $1.7 million in disgorgement and fines.

As cryptocurrency gains popularity, it has become a fertile ground for fraudsters, making it crucial for investors to exercise caution and due diligence when investing in such ventures.

The most recent crypto crime and scam report from Chainalysis suggests that crypto-based crimes are decreasing but still remain a major roadblock, especially for newcomers.

Inflows to illicit addresses by crypto crime category 2022 vs. 2023. Source: Chainalysis
Inflows to illicit addresses by crypto crime category 2022 vs. 2023. Source: Chainalysis

The AirBit Club case is a cautionary tale for investors and a stern warning to fraudsters. It underscores the importance of investor education and the need to scrutinize investment opportunities thoroughly.

The sentencing of Rodriguez is a significant step towards ensuring the integrity of the cryptocurrency market and protecting investors from similar fraudulent schemes in the future.

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