A Swedish national was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to defrauding thousands of people in a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, the Justice Department announced.
Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson, 47, pleaded guilty to various securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges on March 4 for his role in the scheme, which solicited victims to purchase shares in a faux investment venture he named “Eastern Metal Securities,” according to court documents.
The victims, who were told they would receive large returns, paid into the scheme using Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Instead of investing the funds, Karlsson transferred them into his personal bank accounts and used the money to buy homes, a racehorse, and a resort in Thailand for himself, according to the Justice Department.
During the period of the scheme, which lasted from 2011 until he was arrested in Thailand in June 2019, Karlsson worked to evade detection by authorities by using aliases, shell companies, by rebranding his project, and by giving victim investors account statements meant to update them on the status of their assets, the Justice Department‘s statement noted.
Karlsson also falsely told victims he was working with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to explain delays in paying out their returns.
“The investigation into Roger Karlsson’s fraud uncovered a frighteningly callous scheme that lasted more than a decade during which Karlsson targeted thousands of victims, including financially vulnerable seniors, to callously rob them of their assets and all to fuel an extravagant lifestyle surrounded by luxury condominiums and lavish international vacations,” said acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California in a statement.
Karlsson’s scheme is “one of the largest to be sentenced to date,” Hinds said.
Alongside the prison sentence, Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered Karlsson to forfeit the Thai resort and other properties and to forfeit $16,263,820 to be paid as restitution to the victim investors.
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