Security

‘JuicyFields’ Ponzi stole $700M from weed-focused investors, Europol

European authorities arrested nine suspects and seized €1.5 million ($1.6 million) in crypto on Friday during an investigation into a $687 million cannabis Ponzi scheme dubbed ‘JuicyFields.’

The suspects are accused of using social media to promote a number of websites that offered promising investment opportunities in the cultivation, harvesting, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Specifically, investors were told they could use crypto and fiat to crowdfund the growing of cannabis plants that would be sold on, sometimes for 100% annual returns.

According to Europol, JuicyFields had an estimated 500,000 registered users, while 186,000 participants reportedly used crypto or fiat to make investments from early 2020 to July 2022.

Read more: Weed & Bitcoin: Dad and son caught running $13M empire from Starbucks

However, in July 2022, the weed site was shut down and those responsible attempted to scrub the whole operation from the web while freezing cash withdrawals.

Europol estimates “total damages resulting from fake investments in the advertised cannabis cultivation crowdsourcing platform amount to a staggering 645 million ($685 million), but actual and unreported damages could be significantly higher.”

During the operation, Europol says that €4.7 million ($5 million) from bank accounts, €1.5 million ($1.6 million) worth of crypto, and luxury properties worth €2.6 million ($2.8 million) have been seized or frozen. Over 400 police across 11 countries carried out the operation, conducting 38 house searches.

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