The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that Stefan He Qin, the founder of two cryptocurrency-focused hedge funds who pled guilty to securities fraud in February, has been sentenced to 90 months in prison for his actions.
Qin's funds were called Virgil Sigma and VQR. Both were supposed to offer investors a way to profit off the crypto market that "was not exposed to any risk from the price of cryptocurrency moving up or down and therefore provided a relatively safe and liquid investment."
Those claims didn't seem to attract much scrutiny; the DOJ noted that The Wall Street Journal actually profiled Qin in 2018 to celebrate his fund's apparent success. But U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement that Qin's funds were actually devoted to his personal gain rather than solid financial returns for investors:
"Qin’s investors soon discovered that his strategies [emphasis Strauss'] weren’t much more than a disguised means for him to embezzle and make unauthorized investments with client funds. When faced with redemption requests he couldn’t fulfill, Qin doubled down on his scheme by attempting to plunder funds from VQR to satisfy his victim investors’ demands. Qin’s brazen and wide-ranging scheme left his beleaguered investors in the lurch for over $54 million, and he has now been handed the appropriately lengthy sentence of over seven years in federal prison."
Qin's embezzlement is somewhere in the middle of the pack of cryptocurrency-related investment schemes. A mother-son duo has been accused of scamming investors out of $12 million from May 2018 to July 2021, for example, while BitConnect allegedly stole more than $2 billion from crypto-curious investors in 2017 and 2018.
The DOJ said that in addition to the 90-month prison sentence, Qin "was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $54,793,532" and that "the Virgil Sigma fund and VQR have ceased operations and the liquidation and distribution of assets is being handled by a court-appointed receiver."