According to the DOJ, Russell defrauded at least 29 investors from the scheme of around $1.5 million.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that Rashawn Russell, a former Deutsche Bank investment banker and registered broker, has confessed to participating in a fraudulent crypto scheme called the ‘R3 Crypto Fund’.
According to the September 19 announcement, the 27-year-old financier pleaded guilty to the crime before Judge Sanket J. Bulsara at a federal court in Brooklyn.
He also pleaded guilty to another crime, an identity theft scheme where he was charged with illicitly acquiring credit cards and other access devices in the names of third parties.
Russell Defrauds 29 Investors for $1.5 Million
Russell operated the R3 Crypto Fund, a Ponzi scheme promoted to investors as a digital asset investment entity. The former Deutsche Bank employee ran the scheme between November 2020 and August 2022, where at least 29 investors fell for the scam.
Leveraging his background as a banker and licensed financial broker under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, he enticed investors with the promise of guaranteed, substantial returns on investments through his R3 Crypto Fund.
Throughout the scheme, Russell consistently misled investors by furnishing them with false information regarding their investments. He even resorted to fabricating documents to support his claims. He also manipulated images of his bank balance to gain investor’s trust.
On one occasion, when an investor sought to withdraw their crypto holdings, Russell failed to transfer the funds and instead sent a counterfeit confirmation of the transfer.
According to the DOJ, Russell defrauded at least 29 investors from the scheme of around $1.5 million. However, most of the funds he collected from investors were never used to invest in crypto as claimed.
Instead, Russell misappropriated the money for personal gain, including gambling and repaying earlier investors who had fallen victim to his scheme.
Russell Could Spend 30 Years in Prison
The second crime Russell pleaded guilty to occurred between September 2021 and June 2023. According to the DOJ, the 27-year-old broker fraudulently obtained more than fifteen credit cards and other access devices in the names of third parties without their permission.
The former Deutsche Bank employee obtained these devices, intending to use them to complete unauthorized transactions.
Due to the weight of his crimes, the DOJ said he could face up to 30 years in prison when sentenced. Russell has also been mandated to return the $1.5 million stolen from the 29 investors as part of the plea bargain.
Commenting on the case, United States Attorney Breon Peace said Russell took advantage of the growing interest in crypto to defraud his victims.
“Russell leveraged investor interest in cryptocurrency markets to perpetrate a scheme to defraud clients who trusted him. The swift conviction in this case underscores this office’s commitment to holding bad actors in the digital asset market accountable,” he said.
The case was handled by the Business and Securities Fraud Section of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in collaboration with the Department of Justice, Criminal Division, and Fraud Section.
Chimamanda is a crypto enthusiast and experienced writer focusing on the dynamic world of cryptocurrencies. She joined the industry in 2019 and has since developed an interest in the emerging economy. She combines her passion for blockchain technology with her love for travel and food, bringing a fresh and engaging perspective to her work.