BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, John DeMarr was sentenced by United States District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall to 60 months in prison for his participation in a cryptocurrency and securities fraud scheme. The Court also ordered DeMarr to pay $3,513,305.41 in forfeiture. In July 2021, DeMarr pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Donald Alway, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office (FBI), and Tyler Hatcher, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles (IRS-CI), announced the sentence.
“DeMarr took advantage of those who trusted him, persuading them to double down on their investments when he knew that his cryptocurrency companies and their dubious celebrity endorsements were scams being used to fund his lavish lifestyle,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “The victims ultimately lost everything, so it is appropriate that DeMarr lose his freedom for concocting this fraud.”
“Cryptocurrency schemes are on the rise. The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners are working diligently to identify and investigate criminals who perpetrate these schemes, like John DeMarr,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Hatcher. “DeMarr, a promoter of several digital asset-related companies, conspired with others to defraud victims and made misleading representations for significant profits. DeMarr diverted funds into accounts he controlled and spent the money to maintain a lavish lifestyle. Those who line their pockets with profits from these schemes should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable.”
According to court filings, DeMarr, a promoter of several digital asset-related companies, conspired with others to defraud investor victims by inducing them to invest in their companies, “Start Options” and “B2G,” based on materially false and misleading representations. Start Options purported to be an online investment platform that provided cryptocurrency mining, trading, and digital asset trading services. B2G was purportedly an “ecosystem” that would allow users to trade B2G tokens, provide digital wallet staking, and trade digital and fiat currencies “on a secure, comprehensive platform.” Both Start Options and B2G, however, were fraudulent.
DeMarr and others falsely claimed that investor funds would be invested in digital asset mining and trading platforms that would earn them massive profits. In reality, the funds were never invested and instead diverted to accounts controlled by DeMarr and others and used for various personal expenditures, including the purchase of a Porsche, jewelry, and the remodeling of DeMarr’s home in California.
Start Options also purported to feature celebrity endorsements to promote its securities offerings. For example, a professional athlete purportedly endorsed Start Options and his name and likeness were used without his consent. Based on this and other fraudulent promotional materials, investors sent millions of dollars’ worth of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and fiat currency to financial accounts, including cryptowallets, controlled by DeMarr and others in the United States and abroad. In late January 2018, rather than permitting Start Options investors to withdraw money from their accounts after the requisite time period, DeMarr and others required investors to roll over their accounts into an unregistered “initial coin offering,” or ICO, of B2G. Investors never actually received any digital tokens, and funds from the offering were not used to develop the B2G platform.
Additionally, DeMarr and others also paid various promoters, including an actor famous for martial arts films made in the 1980s and 1990s, to serve as a promoter and celebrity spokesperson, falsely claiming that B2G could generate an “8,000%” return for investors within one year, and that he was a participant in the ICO. DeMarr and others also created false press releases and whitepapers about B2G, fabricated B2G account statements, and refused to allow investors to withdraw their money.
This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kaitlin T. Farrell, Hiral D. Mehta, David C. Pitluck, Antoinette N. Rangel and Special Agent Martin Sullivan of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Kevin Lowell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case. Assistant United States Attorney Claire Kedeshian of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters.
Santa Ana, California
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-153 (LDH)