Coca-Cola launches Pride NFTs, bringing the commercialization of Pride to new lows

A 3D rendering of a glass coke bottle with pink and orange swirls on it, surrounded by faceted spherical prisms and rainbow lightsCoca-Cola Pride Bottle #8 (attribution)
If it wasn't already nauseating to watch a huge corporation like Coca-Cola use LGBTQ Pride Month to market their products and pay lip service to supporting LGBTQ rights while supporting anti-LGBTQ politicians, now they're doing it with NFTs. Coca-Cola launched "The Coca-Cola Pride Collection" of 136 NFTs, which are minting for 335 MATIC (~$158). The website states that all proceeds will go to LGBTQ+ charities.

At that price, Coca-Cola will only be earning about $21,500 (minus any expenses) if the project mints out, plus any resale fees. A many-billion-dollar company like Coca-Cola might consider just donating the 20 grand themselves.

Mirror Trading International charged after $1.7 billion fraud

Mirror Trading International was a South African Bitcoin pool operator that advertised to investors that it would generate 10% returns a month, with bonuses for referring friends and family. In reality, the project was a global pyramid scheme that lied to investors about the existence of a "trading bot", falsified account statements, engaged in no profitable forex trading, and used participants' deposits to pay out "returns" to other investors. The company operated from May 2018 until its bankruptcy and liquidation in early 2021, pulling in more than $1.7 billion.

Mirror Trading International was founded and operated by Cornelius Johannes Steynberg, who had been on the run from South African police until recently being detained in Brazil on an INTERPOL warrant. The CFTC is seeking full restitution, disgorgement, and bans from future trading.

Owner of Circle Society platform, which advertised 600% returns, charged with fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice announced fraud charges against David Saffron, the owner of the Circle Society cryptocurrency investment platform (with no relation to Circle). Saffron allegedly lied to investors, saying he operated a cryptocurrency trading bot that would generate 500–600% returns on investment. He also reportedly held meetings at luxury homes in the Hollywood Hills and traveled with armed security "in order to create the false appearance of wealth and success".

The scheme ultimately drew in about $12 million from investors, beginning in late 2017. Saffron was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 115 years in prison.

Previously, in April 2021, the a court ordered Circle Society and Saffron to pay $32 million in relation to the scheme after a default judgment in a lawsuit from the CFTC, who described the whole thing as a Ponzi scheme.

Operator of fraudulent Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services ICO charged with securities fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice charged Michael Alan Stollery with securities fraud over his role as founder and CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services (TBIS). TBIS was a supposed cryptocurrency investment platform that launched an initial coin offering in 2018. The ICO drew in $21 million until the SEC obtained a court order to halt the offering on May 29, 2018.

The DoJ alleges that Stollery falsified the TBIS whitepaper, wrote fake testimonials on the project website, and made up business relationships with the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and large companies including Apple, Pfizer, and Disney.

If convicted on all counts, Stollery faces up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Department of Justice charges founders of the $100 million EmpiresX ponzi scheme

The U.S. Department of Justice announced they had filed charges against Emerson Pires, Flavio Goncalves and Joshua David Nicholas, the two founders and the "head trader" of the EmpiresX cryptocurrency investment platform. The DoJ alleges that the project was a Ponzi scheme, and that they were offering an unregistered security. They also alleged that the duo were misrepresenting a supposed proprietary trading bot, and fraudulently guaranteeing investment returns. The EmpiresX scheme reportedly pulled in $100 million from investors, and appears to have run from 2020 until early 2022.

All three are facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and Pires and Goncalves have also been charged with conspiracy to commit international money laundering. If convicted on all counts, Pires and Goncalves face up to 45 years in prison and Nicholas faces up to 25 years in prison.

U.S. Department of Justice charges one person behind the "Baller Apes" rug pull

Illustration of a purple neon themed bar scene with crypto price charts on the wallsBaller Ape Club website (attribution)
The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against Le Anh Tuan, who was one of the individuals behind the "Baller Ape" NFT rug pull in October 2021. According to the DoJ, Tuan and his partners made off with $2.6 million of investor funds through the Baller Ape NFT project. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

The people behind the Baller Ape NFT project were also reportedly behind at least two other NFT rug pulls, including "Big Daddy Ape Club". These projects were not mentioned in the DoJ press release.

FTX reportedly approaches a deal to buy BlockFi in "fire sale"

According to CNBC, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX is hammering out the details on an agreement to acquire crypto lending platform BlockFi. Earlier in June, it was reported that FTX had agreed to lend BlockFi $250 million, bailing out the exchange after it suffered substantial losses.

BlockFi was last valued at $4.8 billion, but FTX is expected to pay around $25 million to buy the company. BlockFi CEO Zac Prince refuted what he described as a "market rumor": "I can 100% confirm that we aren't being sold for $25M." A leaked call with Morgan Creek Digital investors suggested they were trying to counter FTX's offer, and that BlockFi was being valued at less than $500 million. The call also revealed that BlockFi's loan to Three Arrows Capital had been $1 billion, and that it was backed by collateral of $1.33 billion in Bitcoin and GBTC.

CNBC reported that, according to one of their sources, "equity investors in BlockFi are 'wiped out' and are now writing off the value of their losses."

FOIA request reveals that Coinbase has been providing ICE with blockchain analytics tools

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed an August 2021 contract between U.S. crypto company Coinbase and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The contract shows that Coinbase is providing ICE with access to their "Coinbase Tracer" intelligence-gathering tool, which is used to trace blockchain transactions and thwart laundering of funds through crypto tumblers.

Cryptocurrency has long been touted as a tool for the unbanked, including those who don't have access to banking because they're undocumented, and for people hoping to operate free from government observation. Coinbase, however, has actively courted government contracts such as this one, which has not won them favor among the more libertarian-leaning crypto enthusiasts.

SEC rejects Grayscale application to create Bitcoin ETF

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected a proposal from Grayscale Investing that would turn their Bitcoin trust into an exchange-traded fund (ETF). If accepted, this would have been the first Bitcoin ETF. However, the SEC determined that the listing plan did not sufficiently prevent fraud or manipulation.

Also on the 29th, the SEC rejected an application from Bitwise to create a Bitcoin exchange-traded product (ETP).

Grayscale immediately announced they would be suing the SEC, a course of action they'd been suggesting for several months. Don't hold your breath, though — a litigation analyst estimated such a lawsuit would take 12–18 months to reach resolution.

Crypto games site "w3itch.io" blatantly copies itch.io, hosts stolen games

Tweet from w3itch.io: "We are really sorry about used itchio's CSS files. But we are really shot of designer. And if you check in detail the supported project types and features are very different between us and they are two different public goods. We will try to make a distinction in UI in future."Tweet by w3itch.io (attribution)
A somewhat blundering group of developers decided to create "w3itch.io", an online marketplace for game creators. The marketplace said it was intended to be friendly to games incorporating NFTs and other crypto-related technologies, unlike the indie game marketplace itch.io, which tweeted in February that "NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the we ask that [you] please reevaluate your life choices."

W3itch.io apparently decided the best way to accomplish their goal would be to not only steal itch.io's site design, but the source code itself. The games hosted on the website were also taken without the consent from their creators.

After being called out by the KennyNL Twitter account, W3itch.io admitted to stealing the CSS, as well as buying Twitter followers. However, they refused to take the website down, and seemed to claim they were unable to remove listings of stolen games.

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