ATLANTA — FBI Atlanta is trying to identify all victims in a case involving two cryptocurrency-based investment scams, allegedly led by Atlanta film producer Ryan Felton.
Felton faces sentencing in U.S. Federal Court on Nov. 22, but investigators hope to have more victims identified before that date.
The producer pleaded guilty earlier this year to multiple counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering charges arising from these two investment schemes that the FBI said cost investors millions in losses.
Chris Markowski hosts the “Watchdog on Wall Street” radio show and podcast. He looks out for financial scams like this one, and financial frauds, and is familiar with the case.
“All you needed to do is to get a little bit of hype and a guy obviously, in his position, he was involved in Hollywood and had known some people and got people to bite when it comes to this," he said. "I try to go after [these people] and try to help people out."
In 2017, Ryan Felton promoted an initial coin offering (ICO) for a new entertainment streaming platform, FLiK, which he promised would surpass Netflix. To increase, or pump, the price of FLiK coins, Felton falsely represented to investors that a prominent Atlanta rapper and actor was a co-owner of FLiK, the United States military had agreed to distribute the streaming platform to service members, and FLiK was finalizing licensing deals with major film and television studios.
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged FLiK and CoinSpark, which are the two companies controlled by Felton that conducted the initial coin offerings (ICOs), according to the release.
The FBI said Felton lied to promote his business, by saying that a prominent actor and rapper from Atlanta would be co-owner of one of his ventures. Then, they said he diverted millions of dollars in investor proceeds to his personal account.
"I call it the world's second oldest professions: get rich, quick con artists. They always use a couple of types of bait," Markowski explained. "They use greed, and they use fear. And in this case, he was greed."
“The SEC’s complaint alleges that Felton promised to build a digital streaming platform for FLiK, and a digital-asset trading platform for CoinSpark. Instead, Felton allegedly misappropriated the funds raised in the ICOs,” the statement continued.
According to the doc, Felton allegedly secretly transferred FLiK tokens to himself and sold them into the market, reaping an additional $2.2 million in profits, and he engaged in "manipulative trading" to inflate the price of SPARK tokens.
"A good way to avoid any of this stuff is to understand that everything in life that has meaning value and worth involves work time and effort," Markowski added. "Stop looking for shortcuts. Stop trying to get rich quick... I deal with this stuff all the time."
Felton allegedly used the funds he misappropriated and the proceeds of his manipulative trading to buy a Ferrari, a million-dollar home, diamond jewelry and other luxury goods.
"There was no investment, there was nothing there," Markowski said. "It was basically a whole phony type of a company and all that money was just transferred to himself. People looking to make a quick buck here and there, 99.9% of the time, you’re going to end up losing. The warning signs are the over-the-top types of promises, what returns and you're going to double your money, you're going to triple your money.”
The FBI said if you were a victim and reach out to them, the responses are voluntary but could be helpful for their investigation.
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