A federal grand jury has returned a 55-count indictment against Luis Ortega, 42, of Litchfield Park and Jeremie Sowerby, 45, of Fountain Hills for wire fraud and transactional money laundering, according to a release from the Arizona district of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment was handed up Sept. 19, officials said late last week, adding that it alleges “Ortega and Sowerby scammed hundreds of victims out of millions of dollars in a cryptocurrency investment scheme.”
Using three entities, the release stated, Ortega and Sowerby marketed a risk-free investment opportunity in leases of purported Bitcoin mining machines located abroad (Now Mining), a direct investment in Bitcoin mining machines in Arizona (VIP Mining) and a real estate and technology company through which investors could purchase custom-built container houses using the defendants’ proprietary “Millennium” cryptocurrency.
“Each entity involved the promise of lavish giveaways and profits that could be accessed and liquidated immediately,” the release stated.
“In reality, the entire scheme was based on lies. Ortega and Sowerby siphoned the victim funds to bank accounts they controlled and used the money for themselves, including for the purchase of properties and a new vehicle, and extensive cash withdrawals,” according to the release.
A conviction for wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or both. A conviction for transactional money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
In its release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said “an indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation are conducting the investigation, and the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Phoenix, is handling the prosecution.