The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained an emergency asset freeze against PlexCoin, a controversial “fast-moving” and “purported” initial coin offering (ICO) that has raised up to $15 million from thousands of investors since August 2017.
The SEC also filed charges against Dominic Lacroix, a “recidivist” Quebec securities law violator, his partner Sabrina Paradis-Royer and his company PlexCorps, according to a new filing dated December 1, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York.
The SEC’s complaint charges Lacroix, Paradis-Royer and PlexCorps with violating anti-fraud provisions, and Lacroix and PlexCorps with violating the registration provision, of U.S. federal securities laws. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus interest and penalties. The SEC is also seeking an officer-and-director bar for Lacroix as well as a bar from offering digital securities against Lacroix and his partner Paradis-Royer.
Initial coin offerings have become a bonanza for digital currency entrepreneurs in spite of increased attention from regulators. So far, ICOs have raised US$3 billion in 2017 thanks to more than 200 offerings held during the course of the year, according to data obtained from CoinSchedule.
Regulators around the world are becoming increasingly concerned about the dangers posed by ICOs and are warning about the risks of asset bubbles, market manipulation and fraud. Indeed, the SEC established last September a cyber unit to keep an eye on ICOs, distributed ledger technology, the spread of false information through electronic and social media, and hacking and threats to trading platforms.
PlexCoin caught the attention of Quebec’s financial watchdog this summer which unsuccessfully tried to stop its ICO. The SEC’s complaint does not mince words.
“This is an emergency action to stop Lacroix, a recidivist securities law violator in Canada, and his partner Paradis-Royer, from further misappropriating investor funds illegally raised through the fraudulent and unregistered offer and sale of securities called ‘PlexCoin’ or ‘PlexCoin Tokens’ in a purported Initial Coin Offering,” affirms the 35-page SEC complaint.
The SEC complaint alleges that from August 2017 to December 1, 2017, PlexCorps, Lacroix and Paradis-Royer “purportedly” obtained $15 million from thousands of investors through “materially false and misleading statements” made by Lacroix and through entities Lacroix controls such as promising investors returns of 1,354% in under 29 days. The statement further alleges that Lacroix and Paradis misappropriated investor funds and engaged in deceptive acts relating to PlexCoin.
The false and misleading statements, according to the SEC’s statement, include:
- Lacroix and PlexCorps asserted that their team consisted of a growing cadre of experts stationed around the world, and that the principal place of business was in Singapore.
In fact, the SEC asserts that “Lacroix knew or recklessly disregarded, PlexCorps and PlexCoin are a scam” because there is no PlexCorps team other than a handful of Lacroix’s employees in Quebec.
- According to Lacroix, the identity of PlexCorps’ executives were kept hidden to avoid poaching by competitors.
In fact, the SEC states that the reason why PlexCorps did not disclose the identity of its principal executive was because Lacroix was a known recidivist securities law violator in Canada.
- Lacroix said that the proceeds of the PlexCoin ICO would be used to develop other PlexCorps products.
The SEC alleges that the proceeds from the PlexCoin ICO were intended to fund Lacroix and Paradis-Royer’s expenses including home décor projects.
The funds fraudulently raised during the PlexCoin ICO have been channeled through various fiat currency accounts belonging to Lacroix and Paradis-Royer and through cryptocurrency addresses under their control on various blockchains, according to the SEC statement.
Of the 81 million PlexCoins purchased, approximately $810,000 is currently held in three accounts to which Lacroix and his associates will soon gain access, alleges the SEC. The SEC also alleges that Lacroix and Paradis-Royer have misappropriated or attempted to misappropriate at least $200,000 of these amounts on “extravagant” personal expenditures.
“PlexCoin is and was a fraud aimed at enriching” Lacroix and Paradis-Royer, plainly states the SEC in its statement.
PlexCorps disputes the charges. “We are being depicted as robbers, scammers and fraudsters everywhere in the media. They are smearing our name with some allegations that can sometimes be false or misleading,” it said in a Facebook posting dated December 4th.
PlexCorps also states that it will be cooperating with Quebec’s securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers, and the SEC “until the end of the investigation.”
Lacroix’s legal hurdles are from over. Earlier this fall, he was found guilty of contempt of court. He is now awaiting his sentence.