German National Arrested in Miami for Orchestrating $150 Million Crypto Investment Scheme

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German National Arrested in Miami for Orchestrating $150 Million Crypto Investment Scheme

Last week, Horst Jicha, a German national, was arraigned at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on an indictment charging him with securities fraud and conspiracies to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering for his role in a cryptocurrency scheme called USI Tech.  Jicha was arrested, and the charges against him were unsealed when he entered the United States on December 23, 2023 attempting to vacation in Miami, Florida. 

According to the indictment, USI Tech was an online platform that began in Europe and purported to make cryptocurrency investments easy and accessible to the average retail investor.  In reality, it was a multilevel marketing scheme that relied on investors recruiting other investors below them to buy various purported cryptocurrency investments.  Jicha was one of USI Tech’s founders and its Chief Executive Officer.  In 2017, Jicha brought USI Tech to the United States and aggressively marketed it to U.S. retailers on social media and through in-person presentations in which he falsely guaranteed high returns on investments and made false claims about the legality of the platform’s investment offerings.

TRM graphs showing funds from USI Tech to Exchange; USI Tech ETH address to Exchange and USI Tech BTC transactions to Exchange

In early 2018, after USI Tech faced regulatory scrutiny in the United States, it ceased all U.S. operations overnight, leaving investors with no ability to access their money and resulting in millions of dollars in losses.  Much of the missing money – Ether and Bitcoin valued at approximately $150 million as of the date of his arrest – was sent to cryptocurrency deposit addresses controlled by Jicha after USI Tech ceased operations.  Jicha had not returned to the United States for over five years, until the date of his arrest.

According to James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, “Too often honest investors fall victim to schemes surrounding emerging financial opportunities. No matter how long it takes, the FBI will continue to bring to justice criminal financial fraudsters.”

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