Me Coin Founders Disappear with $60 Million After Staging the “Scam of the Year” in Colombia
The crypto “scam of the year” has come unraveled in Colombia, with the leaders of the scam disappearing with $60 million.
The scam was called Me Coin. The company promised to pay customers 50% monthly returns in bitcoin. After collecting the deposits of users, the pair running the scam suddenly disappeared.
Police in Colombia estimate that more than 4,000 people have been scammed for a value of $60 million USD. The two founders of the scam still have not been found.
As reported by Colombia’s W Radio, Me Coin’s scam involved face-to-face meetings across the country. The pair running the scam, Juan Carlos Olaya and Silfredo Camargo, would meet with potential investors and convince them Me Coin was a legitimate business with high potential.
“Evelio Matiz was told that life would change [for] him. On Sunday, March 12, 2017 in the city of Cartagena, a multilevel business leader invited him to a meeting with 30 other people.”
The meeting occurred in a pizza shop. Attendees were told the purpose of the meeting was to discuss bitcoin and teach attendees about how bitcoin works. During the meeting, scam operator Silfredo Camargo called himself a “crypto guru”.
Victims Were Told to Buy Investment Packages Ranging from $100 to $10,000
Instead of teaching attendees about bitcoin, however, Camargo purportedly told investors about various investment opportunities. In a well-rehearsed speech, Camargo described eight different investment plans ranging from $100 to $10,000.
Investors were encouraged to buy a minimum of 10 BTC to maximize their returns. That bitcoin went towards a startup “Me Coin”. By investing in that currency, investors could purportedly earn returns of 50% ROI per month.
The attendees were understandably skeptical. However, they were also aware that bitcoin was a market with a phenomenal history of growth. Evelio, the attendee mentioned above, remembered hearing stories of similar returns across the bitcoin market:
“The promise seemed exaggerated to Evelio. But he recalled several press articles, including one from the Dinero magazine where it was reported that in 2015 bitcoin had had an 80% growth.”
The scam artist, Camargo, went on to explain how they could achieve 50% growth. Me Coin was reportedly considering the launch of its own shopping center, for example, and a travel agency where shoppers could make purchases in digital currencies.
Evelio was convinced the investment opportunity was legitimate. The next day, he sent 34 million pesos to a Bancolombia account belonging to a man named Andrés Granados in Barranquilla. At the time, 1 BTC was worth about $1170 USD.
The Scammers Continued to Communicate With Victims Through YouTube Videos
After transferring the money, Evelio was shown YouTube videos of a man named Juan Carlos Olaya, purportedly the CEO of Me Coin. In a series of YouTube videos, Olaya claimed to be a marketing guru who had been active and successful since the early days of the internet in 2001. Other YouTube videos explained how to use the Me Coin platform.
In the final YouTube videos, investors were told to tell their friends about the opportunity. Investors who told friends about the MeCoin investment products, for example, could earn compensation.
You can view links to all YouTube videos on the original W Radio story here.
It was a classic multilevel marketing scam and pyramid scheme. Investors poured more and more money into the company, with compensation being funneled to the top levels of the pyramid. Olaya and Camargo used a binary compensation structure, ensuring users would have plenty of incentive to refer people to the scam.
Evelio, the hapless investor mentioned above, began to grow suspicious about the company. He asked questions about the ownership and executive team. Olaya and Camargo claimed they weren’t the owners or executive officers, but the real owners were “millionaire investors from the state of Utah.”
Olaya and Camargo even took the time to plan a launch party. The Me Coin launch party took place on May 13, 2017 in Cucuta. That party reportedly “seemed more like an electronic party than a business meeting.” It came complete with lights, smoke, paper cannons, and a DJ playing loud music. During the party, guests were brought up stage to describe how they had earned millions of dollars through Me Coin.
Other attendees were given “virtual checks” containing millions of dollars – checks that would later bounce.
Camargo later toured Colombia’s biggest cities attracting more investors. He visited Bogota, Cali, Barranquilla, Medellin, Monteria, Popayan, Yopal, and Santa Marta, among other cities, in an effort to attract investors.
The Final Fall of MeCoin
The fall of MeCoin came suddenly – as it does with most pyramid schemes.
“On May 22 some investors put the first messages of alert in their groups of WhatsApp. There they warned that the supposed returns did not appear in their virtual wallets.”
The company responded by saying they had technical problems and that everything would soon be solved.
A few days later, the website went down, and Camargo claimed the website had been hacked. The hackers had disappeared with thousands of bitcoin.
The last we heard from Juan Carlos Olaya was on his YouTube channel on June 5, when he explained via live broadcast that the business model was not a pyramid scheme, that Me Coin had legitimately been attacked, and that they were focusing on creating a genuine multilevel marketing company.
Olaya and Camargo have not been heard from since. They have not responded to chats, emails, or calls. Everything indicates that the duo fled with all the money raised from MeCoin – a sum worth an estimated $60 million.
62 People Are Suing Me Coin
Following the scam, 62 people are suing Me Coin via a Colombian law firm. Those 62 victims are from Colombia, Paraguay, Miami, New York City, Florida, Mexico City, Toluca, Panama, and Spain, among other locations.
The lawsuit is currently being prepared, although charges being considered include aggravated fraud, illegal collection of money, intent to commit aggravated crime, and illicit enrichment.
It’s unclear how the lawsuit will proceed, considering Me Coin was a scam company operated by two people who have not been since in over a year.
Last year was a landmark year for bitcoin scams. We saw plenty of multilevel marketing scams similar to Me Coin: these scams lured gullible investors with promises of enormous returns and easy commission. Eventually, like BitConnect, they collapsed.
In any case, Me Coin is being described as the “scam of the year” in Colombia and the story is making headlines across the country. $60 million USD is an enormous sum of money – and it’s unclear if the money will ever be recovered or if Olaya and Camargo will ever be found.