Published: August 30, 2022 | Updated: August 30, 2022

North Idaho man among 11 charged in $300 million crypto Ponzi scheme

A Kootenai County man is one of 11 people charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for their roles in creating and promoting Forsage, an allegedly fraudulent crypto pyramid and Ponzi scheme that raised more than $300 million from retail investors worldwide, including in the U.S.

Ronald R. Deering of Coeur d’Alene was charged by the SEC, along with six others from other states, with violating the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws.

Also charged were the four founders of Forsage, who were last known to be living in Russia, the Republic of Georgia, and Indonesia.

"As the complaint alleges, Forsage is a fraudulent pyramid scheme launched on a massive scale and aggressively marketed to investors," said Carolyn Welshhans, Acting Chief of the SEC’s Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit. "Fraudsters cannot circumvent the federal securities laws by focusing their schemes on smart contracts and blockchains."

According to the SEC’s complaint, in January 2020, Vladimir Okhotnikov, Jane Doe a/k/a Lola Ferrari, Mikhail Sergeev, and Sergey Maslakov launched, a website that allowed millions of retail investors to enter into transactions via smart contracts that operated on the Ethereum, Tron, and Binance blockchains. However, Forsage allegedly has operated as a pyramid scheme for more than two years, in which investors earned profits by recruiting others into the scheme. Forsage also allegedly used assets from new investors to pay earlier investors in a typical Ponzi structure.

Despite cease-and-desist actions against Forsage for operating as a fraud in September 2020 by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines and in March 2021 by the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, the defendants allegedly continued to promote the scheme while denying the claims in several YouTube videos and by other means.