They Invested In a New Cryptocurrency. They Lost Thousands of Dollars.

As several people in South Florida found out — before investing in a new coin, you should research it well to avoid losing it all. NBC 6 Investigators has their warning.

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In a video posted to a WhatsApp chat, Ryan Crawford known as “Brody” is dancing and celebrating what he says is going to be the launch of his new crypto coin called “Cheetah.”

“We are about to take over the world,” Crawford can be heard saying in the video, which was posted on Dec. 5, 2021.

According to Alberto Rivera and two others who spoke to NBC 6 Investigators, Crawford told them he was launching the new coin and a digital platform that used artificial intelligence to do crypto trading.

“So these bots on the blockchain would actually do the purchasing and the selling of cryptocurrencies,” Rivera said. “He says ‘hey listen, would you be interested in testing? So if you make your investments, what we’ll do is we’ll take the earnings that my bot generates, I’ll pass them on to you and then I’ll continue to invest.’”

In layman’s terms, cryptocurrency is a digital asset that works like a stock on the market. Each currency has a value that fluctuates depending on different factors. It has become so popular, many are launching their own digital currency. 

In this case, Crawford confirmed he offered to invest people’s money in the crypto market and in his “Cheetah” coin as part of what he called his “investment club.”  

Rivera told NBC 6 he sent Crawford close to $12,000 between crypto and cash.

“The earnings could’ve been based on how aggressively you wanted to play the market,” Rivera said.

But Rivera said he never got a return because Crawford’s alleged house of cards came crumbling down the day of a launch party when a group of prominent figures sent him $140,000 to invest. In a post he shared via WhatsApp, he admitted he lost it all.

“I don’t lose much but when I do it’s like in really s--- situations like with you guys, and I’m sorry I actually am really sorry,” Crawford can be heard saying on the video. 

This was not the first time Crawford let investors down.

Fredy Hernandez said he gave Crawford $10,000 to invest in the stock market and when he tried to collect the alleged earnings of his investment, his lawsuit claims Crawford gave him a $140,000 bad check. 

“The check was presented for payment to the drawee bank…but payment was refused, due to the account being closed,” the lawsuit said.

“He kept telling people in the group chat, ‘Oh, I already paid such and such like I don’t even understand why they keep hunting me for money,’ but in reality, he has never paid anybody,” Hernandez told NBC 6.

Hernandez and another investor, who also filed a lawsuit claiming she got a bad check, won in court but haven’t recovered their money.  

A third lawsuit is pending and their attorney, Jacqueline Salcines, said the calls keep coming.

“I have a list of about 8 others that have been victims of him,” Salcines said. 

She said she doesn’t know what Crawford did with the money he received.

Using the same software law enforcement uses, cybersecurity experts at Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) were able to track the cryptocurrency sent to Crawford’s account.

“The total value of the cryptocurrency that he had sent to his address was roughly $1.2 million and that’s in today’s money,” said Collin Connors, an information security administrator at ERM. 

They said Crawford transferred all of it to an offshore crypto exchange in the Seychelles Islands in Africa where the U.S. government has no jurisdiction.

When NBC 6 Investigators reached out to Crawford, he texted our team saying he was in rehab and called the allegations “fake news.” 

He said he’d meet with the NBC 6 Investigators’ team twice but never showed up. Then, he said he could talk on the phone but ended up sending a series of text messages instead.

“Never invest what you’re not willing to lose…I built the most bad--- trading platform and was going to launch it…and then I got accused of it being a Ponzi scheme and a few of my investors sold all their coins and took all the liquidity,” Crawford wrote in a text message.

He first denied having received the roughly $1.2 million offshore that ERM experts tracked but when we showed him the graph via text, he provided a breakdown of how he allegedly used the money: “700k went to paying people back,” “400k was lost in trading” and “100k was my commissions for killing it for people.”

Then, he texted us he was homeless: “I am currently homeless and have lost everything and unfortunately that’s the truth but I will build my way back up one day.”

“He knows the FBI is looking for him. He knows that we’ve filed police reports, but that doesn’t deter him from continuing to do this to victims,” Salcines said.

When asked why they invested so much money with Crawford, his accusers told NBC 6 he looked the part.

“The image that he was making was that he was hanging out with a lot of celebrities, that he was making a lot of money in stocks and all that,” Hernandez said. 

“At one point he drove an incredible Bentley SUV,” Alberto Rivera said.

Experts tell NBC 6 Investigators anyone can create a crypto coin but before investing in it, you should do your research and see what backing it has. 

While cryptocurrency isn’t regulated or insured by the government, they can investigate alleged scams no matter what currency was used. 

Salcines said several people have already reported Crawford to the FBI. That agency told NBC 6 they are unable to do an interview at this moment or confirm this information.

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