Stefan Qin’s buyers thought they’d discovered a positive factor — a hedge fund that was producing 500 per cent returns by exploiting the worth gaps between cryptocurrencies on 40 exchanges all through the world.
Instead, the 24-year-old self-proclaimed math whiz used their cash on a lavish way of life, together with a $23,000-a-month Manhattan penthouse residence, and failed investments in preliminary coin choices and actual property. Federal prosecutors mentioned Qin defrauded greater than 100 folks out of about $90 million.
After a few of his victims mentioned Qin ought to spend so long as doable behind bars for securities fraud, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced him Wednesday to seven and a half years and known as him “a potentially very dangerous person.”
Mr Qin “deliberately and consciously chose a path” to tear off buyers, together with faux account statements and mendacity to purchasers about how he was utilizing their cash, Ms Caproni mentioned. “This kind of white collar crime is just as devastating to victims as other types of crime, and it will be punished severely.”
The choose additionally mentioned the sentence was meant to discourage others from related crimes and to guard the general public from Mr Qin, who had no bother mendacity to his buyers.
“Virgil had a stated market strategy of ‘market neutral,’ safe investments,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss mentioned in an announcement. “Qin’s investors soon discovered that his strategies weren’t much more than a disguised means for him to embezzle and make unauthorized investments with client funds.”
More than a dozen buyers had written letters to the choose, together with a number of who mentioned they’d misplaced their life financial savings to Qin, an Australian nationwide who dropped out of faculty to discovered Virgil Sigma Fund LP in 2017. One girl mentioned she was left “homeless and destitute.”
Mr Qin advised the choose he “felt absolutely heartbroken” to learn the letters, lots of whom have been household, pals or enterprise associates.
‘I Feel Ashamed’
“I feel ashamed to look them in the eye and tell them I’m sorry, but I must,” he mentioned.
Mr Qin had claimed he developed a particular buying and selling algorithm known as Tenjin that might earn earnings by shopping for a cryptocurrency on one alternate and promoting it at the next worth on one other. Shortly after beginning Virgil, he bragged the fund produced an annual return of 500 per cent in 2017. The Wall Street Journal wrote a profile of him in 2018, when he managed $23.5 million. By 2020, he’d raised greater than $90 million.
He mentioned he began the hedge fund in his first yr of faculty utilizing an algorithm he thought was an “amazing money making machine.” But “things started to go south, people started to become suspicious of my promises,” Mr Qin advised the choose.
“Instead of coming clean I did the worst thing and doubled down on my lies,” Mr Qin mentioned. “I thought I was the main protagonist and life was a video game and I had just found the cheat code to beat it. As we know life is not a video game.”
Near the tip of final yr, as losses mounted, buyers began to demand their a reimbursement. To make these funds, Qin tried to raid one other fund he had began, the VQR Multistrategy Fund LP, based on prosecutors. But the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in December obtained cryptocurrency exchanges to place a freeze on VQR’s property.
After that, Mr Qin flew again to the U.S. from South Korea, surrendered to authorities in February and pleaded responsible the identical day.
While Mr Qin confronted as a lot as 20 years in jail, federal sentencing tips name for 151 to 188 months. Probation officers really useful 96 months, based mostly on his lack of a felony file and his voluntary return from abroad to face prices.
Prosecutors had urged “substantial” jail time given the “brazen nature” of Mr Qin’s crime and the necessity to cease discourage others from doing the identical factor.
“Mr Qin used that hedge fund as his own piggy bank, stealing investor money to live a lavish lifestyle and repeatedly lying to investors about what he was doing with their money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Tracer mentioned in a sentencing memo.
Defense attorneys requested for a sentence of 24 months, noting Qin took accountability for his actions and helped authorities to get better a number of the misplaced cash.
One investor advised the choose in a letter to not be swayed by Qin’s private attraction, a attribute that helped him defraud so many.
“Mr. Qin did not steal food from a grocery to feed his family,” mentioned the investor, Steve Reich. “He stole over $90 million from ordinary people and has shown no genuine remorse.”
The case is U.S. v. Qin, 21-cr-00075, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan)
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