New York attorney general recovers $50 million defrauded from Gemini Earn crypto investors

The recovery is part of broader efforts to address fraud and protect investors in the volatile cryptocurrency market.

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In a significant win for cryptocurrency investors, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the recovery of $50 million defrauded from participants in Gemini Earn, a high-yield cryptocurrency investment program. That is part of a broader effort to address fraud and protect investors in the crypto market. Gemini Earn, a program launched by the Winklevoss twinsGemini Trust Company, allowed users to lend their digital assets in exchange for interest. However, the program faced scrutiny when it was revealed that the funds were not being used as advertised. Instead of being securely invested, the funds were mismanaged, leading to significant financial losses for many investors.

The New York Attorney General’s office conducted an investigation, uncovering evidence of fraudulent activity and misrepresentation. Attorney General James emphasised the importance of holding companies accountable for their promises, particularly in the volatile and often opaque cryptocurrency sector. “The recovery sends a clear message that we will not tolerate deceit and fraud in any form, and we will use all available tools to protect New York investors,” said James. Gemini will provide full recoveries to more than 230,000 Earn investors, including 29,000 in New York, and agreed to a ban on operating crypto lending programs in the state.

“Gemini marketed its Earn program as a way for investors to grow their money, but actually lied and locked investors out of their accounts,” James said. “Today’s settlement will make defrauded investors whole.” The funds will be accessible within seven days, Gemini told investors on Friday. “With this final distribution, Earn users will have received 100% of the assets owed to them,” it said.  Gemini Earn promised investors attractive returns on their cryptocurrency holdings, capitalising on the growing interest in decentralized finance (DeFi). However, the program’s collapse highlighted the risks associated with high-yield crypto investments, particularly when transparency and proper regulatory oversight are lacking.

The investigation revealed that Gemini Earn’s operators misled investors about the safety and use of their funds. Rather than being securely invested, the assets were exposed to high-risk ventures without proper disclosure, resulting in substantial losses when these ventures failed.

Gemini Earn promised high interest rates to investors who lent crypto assets such as bitcoin to Genesis, a unit of Digital Currency Group, with Gemini taking fees that could exceed 4%. More than $1 billion was frozen when Genesis halted redemptions in November 2022, shortly after the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX cryptocurrency exchange. Genesis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months later.

Why does it matter?

Gemini received a fine of $37 million in February for unsafe and unsound practices in a settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) .The payout is in addition to James’ related $2 billion settlement with crypto lender Genesis Global Capital, which was announced on May 20. Gemini also agreed to cooperate in James’ October fraud lawsuit against Digital Currency Group and its chief executive, Barry Silbert. 

The recovery of funds was achieved through a combination of asset seizures and financial settlements. That included cooperation from various cryptocurrency exchanges and custodians who held the misappropriated assets. The Attorney General’s office worked closely with these entities to trace and reclaim the funds. The recovery has been met with mixed reactions. Investors who suffered losses expressed relief and gratitude for the Attorney General’s efforts. “It’s a step towards justice,” said one affected investor. “I hope this sets a precedent for greater accountability in the crypto industry.” On the other hand, some industry analysts argue that the case underscores the need for clearer regulations and better investor education.