Authorities in the United States have apprehended Brandon Austin and his father, Eugene “Hugh” Austin, on charges of operating a significant cryptocurrency fraud, with allegations of embezzling more than $10 million from investors. Brandon, who has already pleaded guilty, is awaiting his sentencing on September 6. The recent reports suggest that federal agents detained 27-year-old Brandon Austin in April, followed by the arrest of his father on July 5. US Attorney Damian Williams stated that the duo “defrauded both experienced and inexperienced cryptocurrency investors, stealing millions from them.”
The Austin family allegedly enticed individuals to invest in cryptocurrencies through their scheme by promising substantial returns. However, instead of delivering on their promises, they misappropriated all the funds for their personal gain. According to officials, the perpetrators indulged themselves by staying in luxurious hotels, purchasing expensive cars, and dining at high-end restaurants. Additionally, they transferred funds to their loved ones through wire transfers. Brandon sent $50,000 to the mother of his children and $32,000 to his girlfriend, while Hugh provided $10,000 to his father and lover.
Furthermore, the duo went to great lengths by organizing extravagant trips to New York, Miami, and Europe, inviting investors as special guests. However, these events served as a facade to attract unsuspecting victims. Each investor fell victim to varying amounts of losses, with one individual losing over $500,000. At one point, some investors grew frustrated with Hugh, demanding that he fulfill his promise and provide them with their assets and investment returns. In response, the alleged criminal bluntly replied, “I will call you in about 25 minutes. Thanks, Hugh.”
Brandon has pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to forfeit $3.4 million, as well as pay $2 million in restitution. Federal agents have also seized a 2022 E-Pace P250 Jaguar, estimated to be worth over $60,000. Both men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, with charges including money laundering and wire fraud. The court is expected to determine Brandon’s punishment on September 6.
This case bears similarities to one of the largest cryptocurrency frauds in history, known as OneCoin. The Ponzi scheme, masterminded by Ruja Ignatova, also known as “The Cryptoqueen,” operated between 2014 and 2016, defrauding investors of approximately $4 billion. Shortly after authorities initiated an investigation into OneCoin, the mastermind behind the fraud mysteriously disappeared. Ignatova was last seen in Athens, Greece, in 2017, and her whereabouts have since given rise to conspiracy theories.
Some speculate that she is evading capture on a luxurious yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies on the coast. Others have suggested a more sinister fate, proposing that Ignatova may have been brutally murdered in 2019 following a dispute with a Bulgarian drug lord who had invested in her fraudulent scheme.