WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A Stuart man pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit securities fraud in connection with a global cryptocurrency-based Ponzi scheme that bilked about $100 million from investors.
Joshua David Nicholas, 28, of Stuart, was indicted in June by a South Florida federal jury in the case.
Nicholas was the “head trader” for EmpiresX, an alleged cryptocurrency platform, according to court documents.
The US Department of Justice said Nicholas admitted that he and others fraudulently promoted EmpiresX by making numerous misrepresentations.
This included an alleged proprietary trading bot and fraudulently “guaranteed” returns to investors and potential investors in the company.
Prosecutors said Nicholas and his co-conspirators claimed EmpiresX operated a trading bot that used artificial and human intelligence to maximize profitability for investors.
However, the DOJ said EmpiresX ran a Ponzi scheme by paying earlier investors with money from later EmpiresX investors.
Additionally, investigators said EmpiresX never registered its investment program as an offer and sale of securities with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Nicholas pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
A date for sentencing has not yet been set.
Two other men from Brazil were also charged in the case.