109 Key Members of the PlusToken Pyramid Scheme Arrested
The PlusToken saga that has shaken the crypto industry to its core seems to slowly be coming to its end. According to reports from local media, over 100 key members of what many describe as the biggest Ponzi scheme since Bitconnect have been arrested earlier this week.
A news report from media outlet CLS showed that the arrests were a joint effort conducted by the Ministry of Public Security and Chinese local police. The two entities issued a statement saying they have so far apprehended 27 “major criminal suspects” and 82 other “key members” of the PlusToken organization. The 27 arrested conspirators have all been arrested overseas.
The cryptocurrency project has long been described as a “network pyramid scheme” by law enforcement agencies in China and the latest arrests seem to be a culmination of months of investigation into the matter. It is also the first international multi-level marketing organization that used Bitcoin that has been investigated by Chinese law enforcement.
A representative of the Chinese police also said that over 3,000 “hierarchical relationships” have been traced through the PlusToken network, but didn’t provide any further details on whether they were being investigated, too.
These arrests, however, don’t mean that it’s the end of PlusToken. Despite taking a major blow from the arrests, the organization is still active and none of the money that had been swindled from unsuspecting users was recovered. Chinese law enforcement agencies estimate that over 2 million people have participated in the network.
PlusToken, marketed as a high-yield investment opportunity for those interested in trading cryptocurrencies, promised its users monthly returns on their BTC, ETH, and EOS deposits that ranged between 9% and 18%. The network quickly spread from China to Asia even the western world, where members were incentivized to onboard other users in return for a commission. While these are considered to be telltale signs of a Ponzi scheme, the network’s tight grip over marketing managed to fool millions of users.
It wasn’t until last year, where operators of the network performed what many believed to be an exit scam that investors began noticing the numerous red flags in PlusToken’s operations. At the time, various reports estimated that as much as $3 billion had vanished from the platform. Soon after, six higher-up execs of PlusToken have been arrested by the police. The Yancheng Municipal Public Safety Bureau confirmed that they have arrested and were investigating the six suspects.
The latest report from CLS suggests that the original $3 billion estimate was wrong—Chinese law enforcement suspects that over 40 billion Chinese yuan ($5.7 billion) has been drained from the PlusToken network. The funds, according to the report, are still on the move. The police investigation showed that over 6,000 separate addresses have been created to divide and move the funds stolen from the network. While both Chinese law enforcement and various other independent organizations are currently following the movement of the money, it might take months or even years before it’s returned to its investors.