In a landmark judgment, Mark Scott, formerly a high-ranking lawyer at Locke Lord LLP, received a 10-year prison sentence on Jan. 25 for laundering $400 million derived from the infamous OneCoin Ponzi scheme.
The sentencing at the Southern District of New York followed Scott’s 2019 conviction on multiple counts of bank fraud and money laundering. Inner City Press first reported the sentencing from the courtroom.
The OneCoin lawyer
OneCoin, launched in 2014 and operated out of Sofia, Bulgaria, was initially marketed as a groundbreaking cryptocurrency. However, it soon emerged as a fraudulent multi-level-marketing (MLM) scheme, swindling over $4 billion from at least 3.5 million victims worldwide between 2014 and 2016.
OneCoin’s value was falsely represented as being driven by market supply and demand, but in reality, it was a valueless digital currency, its price manipulated and arbitrarily set by the scheme’s operators.
Scott, who joined the scheme after meeting OneCoin co-founder Ruja Ignatova in September 2015, played a pivotal role in the money laundering aspect of the fraud. Despite his defense’s claim of ignorance regarding OneCoin’s fraudulent nature, evidence and testimonies presented during the trial painted a different picture.
Prosecutors argued that Scott was deeply involved in the operations, setting up elaborate offshore fund structures to disguise the origin of the ill-gotten gains.
During the sentencing, the judge scrutinized Scott’s actions post-conviction, including selling his Porsche and transferring significant funds to the Cayman Islands rather than using them to compensate OneCoin victims. The judge said these actions showed his lack of remorse and unwillingness to aid the victims of the scheme he helped perpetuate.
Ruja Ignatova, known as the “Cryptoqueen,” remains at large and was added to the FBI’s Top 10 most wanted list in June 2022. The case continues to unravel as other associates of OneCoin face legal repercussions for their involvement in the scheme.
Scott’s sentencing is a stark reminder of the risks associated with unregulated digital currencies and the potential for their misuse in large-scale frauds. It serves as a cautionary tale for professionals in the legal and financial sectors about the consequences of facilitating or turning a blind eye to dubious financial operations.
The OneCoin case continues to be a touchstone in the discussion about the need for more stringent regulations and oversight in the cryptocurrency market.
Scott’s conviction and sentencing underscore the seriousness with which the U.S. justice system treats financial crimes, especially those involving emerging technologies like cryptocurrencies. It also highlights the ongoing efforts by law enforcement agencies worldwide to bring to justice those involved in one of the most notorious frauds in the realm of digital currencies.