SAN FRANCISCO – Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson, a citizen of Sweden, pleaded guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington, D.C. Field Office.
A criminal complaint filed March 4, 2019, charged Karlsson, 47, and his company, Eastern Metal Securities (EMS), with crimes involving a scheme to defraud victims of more than $16 million. Karlsson, also known by several aliases including Steve Heyden, Euclid Deodoris, Joshua Millard, Lars Georgsson, Paramon Larasoft, and Kenth Westerberg, was arrested on June 17, 2019, in Thailand and was extradited to the United States to face the charges. A federal grand jury indicted Karlsson and EMS on July 25, 2019.
“The internet has pioneered extraordinary opportunities for commerce,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Hinds. “Unfortunately, the same tools that have provided innovative methods of doing business also have provided fertile grounds for fraudsters to take advantage of the unwary. This case demonstrates that we will pursue fraudsters who seek to find their victims in the Northern District of California, even if such criminals operate from outside the country.”
“Karlsson’s false promises of a profitable investment with minimal risk bilked tens of millions of dollars from his unsuspecting victims,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jackson. “Karlsson’s admission today will hopefully provide some measure of justice for more the more than 3,500 victims he scammed and put them on a path to financial restoration. We were glad to provide our expertise in tracing virtual currency in this investigation, diminishing the belief of anonymity associated with these transactions.”
The indictment and a factual basis filed by the government describe a long-running scheme by which Karlsson and EMS used a website to commit wire fraud against thousands of victims. Specifically, the indictment explains that from November 27, 2012, through June 19, 2019, Karlsson and EMS used www.easternmetalsecurities.com to make fraudulent representations and convince victims to send funds using a virtual currency exchange. During the same period, Karlsson and EMS used deceptive “devices and contrivances” to sell securities and then tried to conceal the proceeds of the wire fraud and securities fraud. In sum, the indictment charges Karlsson and EMS with one count each of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; securities fraud, in violation of 15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b) and 78ff and 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5; and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957. Karlsson pleaded guilty to all the charges pending against him. EMS has ceased to exist.
During the hearing, Karlsson admitted that he used the website to invite potential investors to purchase shares of the plan for less than $100 per share, promising an eventual payout of 1.15 kilograms of gold per share, an amount of gold which as of Jan. 2, 2019, was worth more than $45,000. Karlsson advised investors that, in the unlikely event that the gold payout did not happen, he guaranteed to them 97% of the amount they invested. Karlsson admitted he had no way to pay off the investors. Instead, the funds provided by victims were transferred to Karlsson’s personal bank accounts and he then used proceeds to purchase expensive homes and a resort in Thailand.
As the government has alleged, Karlsson also used a second website, www.hci25.com, to make multiple false communications to potential investors. Karlsson brought the investors in HCI25 together with the investors in the “Pre Funded Reversed Pension Plan” and posted multiple communications to delay the moment investors would realize there would be no payout. For example, on one occasion, Karlsson explained that a payout had not occurred because releasing so much money all at once could cause a negative effect on financial systems throughout the world. Karlsson also falsely represented that EMS was working with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to prepare the way for a payout.
Karlsson directed his victims to make investments using virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin. Karlsson admitted he defrauded no less than 3,575 victims of more than $16 million.
Karlsson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine for the wire fraud and securities fraud charges, and 20 years in prison and a $500,000 maximum fine for the money laundering charge. In addition, the court also may order an additional term of supervised release, fines or other assessments, and restitution, if appropriate. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen and Trial Attorney Catherine Alden Pelker of the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Beausey of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the forfeiture proceedings. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the IRS-CI Washington, D.C. Cyber Crimes Unit. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Thailand, the IRS Criminal Investigation Attaché Office in Hong Kong and the Royal Thai Police Crime Suppression Division provided significant assistance.