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Federal prosecutors alleged Friday a Nevada man helped defraud 10,000 investors out of more than $45 million by touting a fake metaverse project with its own crypto token that would one day be sold for trillions of dollars.
Bryan Lee, a 57-year-old Las Vegas resident, was named in a superseding indictment over his involvement in an alleged investment fraud scheme called CoinDeal. Lee was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and criminal monetary transactions. Indictments in the broader case date back to June of last year.
Lee worked alongside three other individuals to convince investors CoinDeal was a legitimate family of businesses working toward developing virtual reality products, federal prosecutors alleged. Lee and his co-conspirators also said they were in talks with a potential “consortium of wealthy buyers,” according to the indictment.
CoinDeal’s promoters told investors the funds were needed to pay for operating expenses until the sale was realized, with Lee and his co-conspirators promising significant returns. In reality, the alleged fraudsters spent lavishly on luxury cars and real estate, prosecutors said.
The superseding indictment says the conspirators falsely advertised the names of two billionaires as being part of the potential buying group. Billionaire-1 is described as the founder and executive chairman of an “online retailing company,” and Billionaire-2 as the founder and CEO of an “electric car company.”
While no names were attached in the indictment, those two descriptions match the characteristics of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, though he’s not actually a founder, two of the wealthiest people in the world.
Lee worked at the direction of Neil Chandran, who “held himself out as the owner” of the conglomerate, and alongside Michael Glaspie, a Florida man who helped collect investor funds, prosecutors said.
Lee was not named in a January U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint, but Chandran and Glaspie were charged alongside five others for their roles in the CoinDeal investment scheme with the unregistered offer and sale of securities.
Prosecutors have also charged another unnamed co-conspirator, Individual-1, for allegedly raising and laundering money for Chandran. The SEC charged a Nevada man, Garry Davidson, who matches the description of Individual-1.
Chandran was arrested and charged in June 2022, while Glaspie pleaded guilty to wire fraud in February.
Chandran is described as a “recidivist securities law violator and convicted felon” in the SEC complaint. He and his backers “targeted mostly unsophisticated investors,” claiming his technology would be sold for “trillions of dollars” to the fake billionaire-backed consortium, the SEC alleged.