Kristijan Krstic and Ponzi empire accomplices sued by SEC
Kristijan Krstic and his Ponzi empire accomplices have been sued by the SEC.
The civil lawsuit follows Krstic’s arrest in Serbia late last year.
As alleged by the SEC, Krstic (aka Felix Logan) was assisted by John DeMarr and Robin Enos.
Kristijan Krstic is a Serbian-Australian national. He ran his Ponzi empire from the Philippines before fleeing to Serbia where he was caught.
John DeMarr is a Californian resident and former private detective. He was inserted as the master distributor for Krstic’s various Ponzi schemes.
Robin Enos is also a Californian resident and former attorney. He lost his license to practice in 2011 following disciplinary charges.
Enos continued to practice unlicensed and was sanctioned and fined after a client lost money in a company Enos illegally served as general counsel for.
Together Krstic and his accomplices operated and promoted Start Options and Bitcoiin2Gen.
The SEC has identified all three schemes as unregistered securities offerings.
Start Options and Bitcoiin2Gen in fact served principally as vehicles for Defendants DeMarr and Krstic to misappropriate investor funds.
By the time their schemes collapsed, they had fraudulently raised, directly or through affiliates and promoters, at least $11.4 million from more than 460 investors in Start Options and Bitcoiin2Gen, none of which has been returned to investors.
BehindMLM correctly identified each of Krstic’s scams as Ponzi schemes.
From approximately December 2017 through late January 2018, Krstic (using a fake name) and DeMarr touted Start Options’ purported digital asset mining and trading platform, which they falsely claimed was “the largest Bitcoin exchange in euro volume and liquidity” and “consistently rated the best and most secure Bitcoin exchange by independent news media.”
Then, from late January 2018 through May 2018, Krstic and DeMarr began promoting Bitcoiin2Gen and the sale of its so-called B2G tokens, as part of an illegal unregistered and purported initial coin offering (“ICO”).
During this period, they ignored Start Options investors’ requests for redemption and required them to roll their investments into B2G tokens.
Enos drafted the fraudulent promotional materials he knew DeMarr and Krstic were disseminating to the investing public in connection with these offerings.
Bitcoiin2Gen was a sham. Enos knowingly or recklessly drafted, and DeMarr and Krstic knowingly disseminated, fictitious technical white papers and fake websites to create the misleading appearance that the B2G tokens were genuine digital assets that were trading on the Ethereum blockchain, when they knew or recklessly disregarded that they were not.
As with all MLM Ponzi schemes, the admins received the majority of funds invested.
With respect to Krstic’s Ponzi empire, he stole $9 million. John DeMarr made off with $1.8 million.
Robin Enos was comparatively shafted, receiving only $12,000 for his efforts.
In their lawsuit against Krstic, the SEC dates his scamming back to “at least 2012”.
Since at least 2012, Krstic and his prior online investment schemes have been the subject of public allegations of fraud in the U.S. and abroad.
In December 2012, for example, Krstic was identified on one internet forum as being linked to the fraudulent online investment schemes “binaryoptionsexposed.com,” and online broker “bankoptions.com.”
In 2013, the Ontario Securities Commission placed Krstic’s company, Krisworld Development Limited, “doing business as binary optionsexposed.com, option-world.com, bankoptions.com, and signaliforex.com” on its regulatory warning list.
In April 2015, the online publication “Behind MLM,” published the first of several articles suggesting that the website “Options Rider” was likely a fraudulent Ponzi scheme, and that the domain, and the domain name of the affiliated website bancdeoptions.com, were linked to Krstic and/or his company, Krisworld, with a purported address in Hong Kong.
Similarly, in August 2016, a liquidator in Australia publicly released a detailed report alleging that Krstic was a shadow director of a company that operated a $4.5 million unlicensed pyramid scheme.
Krstic’s scamming history and multiple run-ins with regulators is why he created the alias Felix Logan.
Krstic controlled all aspects of Start Options, including, among other things, by:
(1) developing its website;
(2) creating its marketing materials;
(3) hiring the company’s promoters; and
(4) deciding how investor funds were spent.
According to several press releases that the company issued in February 2018, Krstic was identified (via his “Felix Logan” pseudonym) as the company’s Chief Financial Officer.
In the fall of 2017, DeMarr and a business associate (“Affiliate 1”) became interested in trading in and profiting from selling digital assets, such as Bitcoin (“BTC”).
In or about November 2017, Krstic, who was looking for U.S.-based promoters to generate investor interest in Start Options, was introduced to DeMarr through a prospective investor who had worked with DeMarr in other multi-level marketing schemes.
On or about November 17, 2017, DeMarr and Start Options entered into an agreement entitled “Start Options Master Affiliate Agreement for North America 2017” (the “Master Agreement”) pursuant to which DeMarr would help to “promote and market the Start Options Platform” in the U.S. in exchange for a “revenue share” based on a pyramidal commission structure for each investment made by clients solicited by DeMarr.
In emails dated on or about November 22, 2017 to November 30, 2017, Krstic emailed DeMarr with details on how investments received by DeMarr from investors were to be sent to Krstic.
Specifically, Krstic provided deposit details to a bank account located in Manila, Philippines, for investments made in U.S. dollars, as well as a digital wallet address for investments made in digital assets.
Krstic also conveyed to DeMarr the two email addresses he used, and assisted him in obtaining access to the Start Options Website.
Starting in December 2017, DeMarr worked with Krstic to redesign the Start Options Website to help attract investors.
DeMarr also recruited Enos, whom he knew to be a disbarred attorney, to help him ghost-write Start Options promotional materials, including press releases and edits to the Start Options Website.
In approximately December 2017, Start Options, Krstic, and DeMarr began offering and selling investment contracts that they and their affiliates promoted through the Start Options Website, social media, and press releases.
During the Relevant Period, DeMarr worked at Krstic’s direction as the “master representative for North America” to solicit U.S.-based investors to Start Options.
A February 9, 2018 Start Options press release announced a “new program with the latest cryptocurrency Bitcoiin2Gen (B2G)” and stated: “Start Options CFO Mr. Felix Logan showed his positive interest in Bitcoiin2Gen, our whole team working closely to capitalize on this opportunity . . . to make Bitcoiin2Gen more profitable for our investors” and by creating a new “B2G Mining Pool” where “our projected earnings in this program should be 80-90%.”
Between December 1, 2017 and January 26, 2018 alone, investors sent approximately $2.9 million worth of BTC and ETH to the Start Options digital wallet Krstic controlled as well as an account opened on CoinPayments.net, a digital asset payment processing service.
No registration statement was ever filed with the Commission nor was any registration statement in effect, for any of these offers or sales of Start Options investment contracts, which were securities.
In late January 2018, Krstic and DeMarr launched a second, related scheme—an unregistered offering of B2G tokens conducted through an ICO (the “B2G ICO”).
The B2G tokens were to purportedly be issued as digital tokens on the Ethereum blockchain in advance of Bitcoiin2Gen’s purported launch of a mineable, tradeable cryptocurrency.
Bitcoiin2Gen conducted this ICO publicly from approximately January 27, 2018 through approximately March 26, 2018, but continued to solicit investments for the ICO through May 31, 2018 (the “B2G ICO Period”).
In total, Bitcoiin2Gen received approximately $7.2 million from more than 435 investors during the B2G ICO Period.
No registration statement was ever filed with the Commission or in effect at any time for the B2G ICO, and no exemption from the federal securities laws’ registration requirements applied.
The SEC’s lawsuit details communication between Krstic and DeMarr, who discussed BehindMLM’s coverage of their fraudulent activity.
By email dated December 22, 2017, DeMarr also forwarded to Krstic a link to an article on the internet site “behindmlm.com” … entitled “Start Options Review: A crypto mining & trading billion dollar company?”
That article noted, among other things: (1) that the company’s purported Philippines address was that of a residential condominium and (2) that traffic-ranking data for the Start Options Website cast “solid doubt” on Start Options’ claims about the size of its purported trading platform and that it was “one of the fastest growing Progressive Bitcoin Mining & Crypto Currency Trading [sic].”
In an attempt to prop up their fraudulent scheme, Bitcoiin paid Steven Seagal to promote B2G.
The SEC fined Seagal over $300,000 for misconduct in February 2020.
Krstic and DeMarr also had Enos put together a B2G token whitepaper. Enos put together a paper that was “cut and pasted portions of White Papers he found on the internet”.
This fictitious white paper was materially misleading to prospective investors.
Enos and DeMarr were aware that Enos, without any direct knowledge of the purported B2G platform, created the Technical White Paper simply by cutting and pasting portions of other white papers for other digital assets that he found on the internet, as directed by DeMarr.
Further, Demarr and Enos knew, or were reckless in not knowing, that this Bitcoiin2Gen white paper was, from a technical perspective, nonsensical, describing the B2G token and its functionality in a way that it could not feasibly operate.
Perhaps the biggest con Krstic pulled off was convincing people to invest millions in B2G tokens. Tokens that never actually existed.
Krstic and his affiliates created a token “smart contract” called Bitcoiin2Gen “B2G”—not a mineable cryptocurrency—on the Ethereum blockchain, but they never transferred these tokens to investors on the Ethereum blockchain.
Instead, Krstic and his affiliates created a fictitious online user interface for investors on the Bitcoiin2Gen website.
When investors logged on, they viewed what appeared to be purported B2G tokens. In reality, they never held B2G tokens because they did not exist.
This elaborate website purporting to show B2G tokens trading was materially misleading.
And as Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded, the purported tokens could not, contrary to claims made in the B2G Marketing Materials on B2G’s website, be traded for fiat currency or legitimate digital assets because they were never actually issued to investors on the Ethereum blockchain.
Krstic’s Ponzi empire began to unravel in March 2018. That month the New Jersey Bureau of Securities issued Bitcoiin with an emergency securities fraud cease and desist.
To prevent the NJBS’ action from undermining the success of their fraudulent scheme, DeMarr asked Enos to draft a response to the NJBS order.
DeMarr asked another affiliate, Attorney 1, a lawyer who had no prior knowledge of Bitcoiin2Gen or digital assets, to allow this letter to be published on his letterhead and under his name.
On March 8, 2018, Bitcoiin2Gen published this letter on its website, and issued a press release announcing: “Our lawyer would like to provide the following information to refute the allegations made against us.”
The press release attached a letter from Bitcoiin2Gen’s purported attorney to the NJBS, and provided a legal and factual argument as to why a B2G token was not a security but instead was a so-called “utility token.”
The response letter contained several material misrepresentations, which Krstic, DeMarr, and Enos knew or recklessly disregarded were false. The letter, for example, claimed that:
(1) Attorney 1 had been retained by Bitcoiin2Gen;
(2) Bitcoiin was domiciled in Hong Kong; and
(3) Bitcoiin2Gen “has built a trading exchange, the express purpose of which is to facilitate owners of its currency, and other cryptocurrencies, trading fiat currencies back and forth.”
Two weeks later the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Securities Division issued a securities fraud investor alert.
The alert referenced the NJBS cease and desist order alleging the company promoted the sale of unregistered securities and cautioned investors that the “none of the companies, promoters, or investments related to Bitcoiin are registered with the TDCI.”
DeMarr again asked Enos to draft a response, which he sent to DeMarr for review, and then on to Krstic and his affiliates for publication.
On or about March 26, 2018, Bitcoiin2Gen published another press release, attaching this letter response on Attorney 1’s letterhead.
Through the letter, Defendants again knowingly or recklessly falsely conveyed that Attorney 1 represented Bitcoiin2Gen, and that Bitcoiin2Gen was domiciled in Hong Kong, which Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded was false.
By April 2018 Bitcoiin investors began reporting withdrawal problems.
Throughout April 2018, however, Defendants continued their deception, even as investors unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw funds from Start Options and/or trade B2G tokens (as Defendants had promised they could) and complained to DeMarr and Krstic’s affiliates that they were unable to do so.
Start Options, Bitcoiin2Gen, and Defendants brushed off investor inquiries with terse responses.
For example, an April 23, 2018 email from “Thorex Assistance” to an investor stated that “[a]fter reviewing your account and your contract terms with Start Options we have come to a conclusion that unfortunately, you have not met the requirements for the withdrawal since you are still in the 90 days’ time frame in the ongoing program”—despite the fact that the investor had already exceeded that holding period.
DeMarr began discouraging his downstream promoters from instructing investors on how to withdraw funds.
On April 10, 2018, DeMarr emailed one of the promoters: “stop telling people to withdraw right now.
The sites [Bitcoiin2Gen and Start Options] are being updated for small bugs here and there.
People need to wait another week or so. You are causing problems.”
On April 22, 2018, DeMarr emailed Krstic’s affiliate that he had received “100’s of emails” from investors complaining that they were unable to withdraw from Thorex.
Krstic initiated his exit-scam in April 2018, by pretending to leave Start Options and Bitcoiin.
On April 27, 2018, Krstic used the handle @felixlogan_cfo to tweet “the time has come for me to find new challenges and opportunities, therefore I would like to inform everyone that I am no longer part of Startoptions.”
That same day, Krstic’s associate emailed DeMarr to advise him that the owner “has sold his share in Start Options and all his other shares in Dragon mining and all other interested ventures to do with crypto mining.”
DeMarr emailed Krstic’s “Felix Logan” email account with the subject “Your [sic] out!” and asked “[w]hy did you not tell me you were selling out. We had many agreements that were not completed.”
Krstic did not reply.
On April 28, 2018, a Start Options press release declared that the company had been sold to Russian venture capitalists.
On or about May 3, 2018, Enos emailed Associate 1: “Any news on the big cash out? You and John flying to Europe?”
Associate 1 replied, “Yes, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, [t]he whole thing just blew up and its [sic] all John’s fault.”
At no time during this period did DeMarr alert investors that the project had “blown up.”
To the contrary, he strove to maintain the illusion that the company was still operational.
John DeMarr’s exit-scam saw him invent an attempt on his life and fictitious hold up.
The next day, Affiliate 1 emailed a colleague of DeMarr’s who was also a private investigator with the subject “Attempted Murder of John DeMarr.”
Affiliate 1 wrote that DeMarr had landed in Montenegro with “2,424 BTC Bit Coin with a value of . . . 25 million US dollars in a private trade exchange that the company had set up,” but that DeMarr had been physically attacked in Montenegro by two Bitcoiin2Gen affiliates, and shortly thereafter “the account was zeroed out and the money taken by the company.”
Rather than face disgruntled investors upon his return to the U.S., DeMarr fabricated a story regarding his disappearance and enlisted Enos and Attorney 1 to assist.
Enos drafted a letter, the contents of which DeMarr dictated to Enos over the telephone when he was already back in the United States, and, on May 30, 2018, Attorney 1 sent an email to B2G investors with the subject “John DeMarr” that attached that letter, on Attorney 1’s letterhead.
The letter stated as follows:
I have been hired by the Estate of John De Marr and his Family to send out this letter.
The action of sending out this letter was prepared on May 14, 2018 “as a precaution before John DeMarr’s trip to Montenegro . . . in the event of something going wrong or something happening to him overseas.
The worst has happened. Currently John is missing. All his communication devices are not responding.
DO NOT email him. DO NOT call or text his phone as we do not know who has these devices.
The family has been in contact with the proper authorities . . . to try and locate him and assure his well being but to all extents and purposes he has disappeared. . . .
He made this trip to try and help those with account problems, gather updates directly from the company, and to collect the funds from the sale of the coins to the Russian bulk buyers.
As of now, there is no update that can be provided about Start Options, B2G or Thorex. You will need to contact the companies directly.
The letter also stated that DeMarr expected to receive 2,424 BTC for investors, but that all of these funds had been “wiped out” and “gone as of today.”
On June 1, 2018, Enos drafted, and Attorney 1 sent under his letterhead and signature, a similar letter to an investor, stating that “DeMarr is currently missing, location unknown but believed to be in the Balkans.
As DeMarr and Enos knew, these letters were false.
By the time they had been sent, DeMarr had already returned to California, and had asked Enos to write these letters to avoid facing the victims of his fraudulent scheme.
Between Start Options and Bitcoiin, around $11.4 million was stolen from investors.
During the Relevant Period, DeMarr received approximately $4.3 million in fiat currency from Start Options and Bitcoiin2Gen investors collectively.
He wired approximately $2 million to a bank account in the Philippines at Krstic’s direction, and of the remainder, DeMarr spent approximately $1.8 million of it on himself (more than $1 million of which he spent during the B2G ICO Period).
These expenses included more than $170,000 in payments on the lease of a Porsche automobile (as well as additional BMW and Jeep payments), more than $600,000 to pay off his personal credit cards, at least $78,000 for house renovations, and approximately $400,000 toward the repayment of personal loans.
In October 2018, long after the fraudulent scheme had collapsed and investors were unable to obtain any refunds of their investments, DeMarr used investor funds to fund a personal trip to Cabo, Mexico.
Nowhere in the B2G Marketing Materials or in any of the investor calls did DeMarr or Krstic disclose that DeMarr would be using nearly half of the fiat currency he raised for his own personal use.
What Krstic did with the $9 million he stole is not disclosed in the SEC’s lawsuit.
For their part in running the Start Options and Bitcoiin Ponzi schemes, the SEC has sued Kristijan Krstic, John DeMarr and Robin Enos for
- violations of the Securities Act;
- violations of the Exchange Act;
- aiding and abetting violations of the Securities Act; and
- aiding and abetting violations of the Exchange Act.
The regulator is seeking an injunction against all three defendants, as well as disgorgement and a civil penalty.
I’ve added the SEC’s case to our calendar, so stay tuned for updates as we continue to track the case.
In related news, John DeMarr has also been arrested on charges relating to the Start Options and Bitcoiin Ponzi schemes.
I’ll provide a link to a separate article below once it’s published.
Update 2nd February 2021 – Article on John DeMarr’s arrest and criminal case is now live.
Update 20th December 2022 – The SEC has filed an Amended Complaint, naming Jeffrey Gold and Keith Gooselaw as additional defendants.