A 27-year-old El Paso man has been sentenced to seven years in prison after orchestrating a “predatory” multi-million dollar crypto Ponzi scheme and spending the illicit gains on luxury cars, jets, villas, and horses, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Abner Alejandro Tinoco ran a fake crypto and foreign market investment business called Kikit & Mess Investments. The firm offered individually managed accounts that solicited roughly $9 million from investors.
Tinoco then spent over half of these funds on sustaining a lavish lifestyle, buying luxury cars, private jets, real estate, and jewelry. He also bought two horses, one of which — named ‘Perfect Pair’ — cost $80,000 according to a court-appointed receiver’s report.
Tinoco formed the company in September 2020 and initially tried to legitimize it by, in typical Ponzi fashion, using funds from previous investors to give other clients the impression that they’d made a profit.
However, by March 2022, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) estimated that Tinoco had defrauded at least 322 clients.
After an investigation by the FBI, Tinoco was eventually caught and pleaded guilty in January 2023 to five counts of wire fraud. In a separate case against him, the CFTC secured a civil consent decree and banned him from trading activities.
One US attorney said, “This defendant manufactured a predatory scheme, investing less than half a percent of funds from over a dozen victims who trusted him with millions of dollars in investments.”
A restitution hearing has been scheduled by the DoJ for next year in an attempt to restore victims’ lost funds.