Miami stock-crypto scam took in $800K, feds say. It was spent on luxury cars, gambling

A Miami man spent almost two years lying to investors about his stockbroker credentials, his technology and their profits from approximately $800,000 they gave him to invest in cryptocurrency and stocks, according to a federal arrest warrant.

Instead, the arrest warrant says, Ryan Crawford spent the money on “luxury rental cars and gambling at the casino.” Or, Crawford made “personally speculative trades” instead of using an artificial intelligence investing bot he’d touted to his targets as infallible.

Crawford was charged with eight counts of wire fraud, one count for each purported lie he told to clients via WhatsApp. The arrest warrant was signed March 2 in Miami federal court. The 30-year-old Brickell Key resident who also answers to “Brody” made his first appearance in Denver federal court on Monday after being arrested in Colorado’s capital on Friday. He was represented by the Federal Public Defender’s Office.

READ MORE: Miami company “looted” investor money in $100 million Ponzi scheme, SEC says

Ethereum, cash and WhatsApp

The warrant says Crawford found investors by promoting himself as a licensed stockbroker and expert in trading stocks and cryptocurrency. When people joined his online chats on the subjects, he got their contact information and worked them individually.

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Crawford claimed to be “a successful trader who had made tens to hundreds of millions of dollars through stock and cryptocurrency investments.” He dangled the promise of using an artificial intelligence bot “that traded hundreds of millions of dollars of stocks “24/7” and “never lost,” the warrant said. Experts point to such “can’t lose” phrases as red flags for investment scams.

“Ultimately, Ryan James Crawford did not return any victim funds, let alone generate the exponential returns he promised,” the warrant said.

The warrant also detailed the eight WhatsApp messages to clients, identified only by initials, that prosecutors say were fraudulent claims:

Sept. 28, 2020: Crawford told investor A.M. he would guarantee the return of A.M.’s $100,000 investment for stock trading by Oct. 15, 2020, and take a 5% commission.

Oct. 1, 2020: Crawford told A.M. “I am literally a licensed stock broker.” An online check of licensed U.S. stockbrokers says that’s, literally, a lie.

Oct. 16, 2020: Crawford sent A.M. a screenshot of a supposed pending check payment to A.M.

Aug. 2, 2021: Crawford told investor S.A. if S.A. sent him a second investment of $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency Ethereum or “ETH,” he would invest $100,000 in stocks and another $100,000 in crypto “with a return of $1.7 million by Aug. 6, 2021.”

Aug. 6, 2021: Crawford sent S.A. a screenshot of an email “purporting to show a pending transfer of $198,000” to S.A.

Oct. 13, 2021: Crawford said he’d give investor D.G. $100,000 in three days for each ETH.

Oct. 13, 2021: Crawford sent D.G. a screenshot that falsely showed $18.9 million in gains.

Oct. 19, 2021: Crawford sent D.G. a screenshot that claims “pending transfers of $800,000 and $500,000 in Canadian dollars to D.G.

This case was investigated by the Miami-Dade police’s cyber crimes unit, the Miami offices of the FBI and U.S. Secret Service with help from the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hauser out of the Miami office is leading the prosecution.

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