Utahn accused of wire fraud and money laundering in alleged cryptocurrency mining scheme
A Utah man has been charged with five counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering related to a cryptocurrency business and private investment firm he owns, according to the Department of Justice. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man has been charged with five counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering related to a cryptocurrency business and private investment firm he owns, according to the Department of Justice.
James Wolfgramm, 43, of Spanish Fork, was named in a grand jury indictment in Utah’s U.S. District Court on Thursday, along with two of his companies, Bitex LLC and Ohana Capital Financial Inc., according to the DOJ. Bitex is named in two wire fraud counts, and Ohana Capital Financial is named in two wire fraud counts and two money laundering counts.
Wolfgramm and Bitex are accused of collecting nearly $1.7 million from two potential buyers of a high-powered cryptocurrency mining machine called the “Bitex Blockbuster” — which does not actually exist, investigators said. Mining for cryptocurrencies requires sophisticated computers that enable a user to “mine,” which is how new units of the cryptocurrency are made. Mining equipment also needs large amounts of electricity to power.
The indictment alleges that Wolfgramm displayed one of the machines in Bitex’s office space to purportedly demonstrate the mining machine’s real-time operations.
“In reality, the machine was fake, and the monitor displayed a prerecorded loop that simply gave the appearance of mining activity,” said a press release from the DOJ.
Wolfgramm and Ohana Capital Financial are accused by investigators of collecting millions of dollars from customers after falsely claiming that Ohana had a board of advisors and promising customers that their funds were bonded. In reality, the company is registered as a private lender, and lacks accreditation as a full financial institution, according to the Department of Justice.
The company is accused of spending customers’ funds on unrelated business expenses without their knowledge, rather than keeping them on deposit, DOJ officials said.
Finally, Wolfgramm was charged with fraudulently purchasing the Sports City complex in Draper for $15 million in 2021. According to federal prosecutors, Wolfgramm took over the property and billing of customers without ever paying utilities or expenses and without making any of the promised payments to the seller. The DOJ claims he collected nearly $160,000 from customers.
Prosecutors say Wolfgramm gave the sellers of the property a check for $1 million that bounced. Wolfgramm claimed to have paid more than $255,000 in taxes on the property, but prosecutors say those payments failed as well because Wolfgramm had knowingly used an account with insufficient funds.
Wolfgramm, Bitex and Ohana have faced similar allegations before. In January, Wolfgramm was charged with four counts of wire fraud while running his cryptocurrency business and mishandling customers’ funds.
The Department of Justice said Wolfgramm has also used the names Semisi Niu and James Vaka Niu.