The founder of the now-defunct cloud mining startups GAW Miners LLC and ZenMiner LLC has been ordered to fork over close to $10 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
On Oct. 3, a federal judge in Connecticut told Homero Joshua Garza to pay $9.18 million, plus $742,774 in interest, in connection with a fraud case filed against him almost two years ago. The SEC filed a civil complaint in 2015 accusing Garza of operating a Ponzi scheme by selling $20 million worth of shares in a digital mining contract to more than 10,000 investors between August and December 2014.
The contracts, or “hashlets,” supposedly entitle an investor to a share of Gaw Miners or ZenMiner’s profits from mining virtual currencies using the startups’ computers. The hashlets were touted to be “always profitable and never obsolete,” but the SEC said most of the investors “never recovered the full amount of their investments, and a few made a profit.”
SEC Boston Regional Office Director Paul G. Levenson said at the time that “Garza and his companies cloaked their scheme in a technological sophistication and jargon, but the fraud was simple at its core: they sold what they did not own, misrepresented what they were selling, and robbed one investor to pay another.”
Garza was initially facing three counts of securities fraud, with each carrying up to 25 years jail time, but his lawyers were able to bring it down to a single charge of wire fraud with a maximum penalty of 20 years. In July, Garza pleaded guilty to one charge of wire fraud in connection with activities relating to Gaw, Gaw Miners, ZenMiner, Zencoin and Paycoin.
The court ordered Garza to pay the prepayment interest of $742,774 to the SEC within six months. The commission, in turn, was tasked to propose a distribution plan, which may include remitting the funds to the U.S. Attorney’s Office “for payment to the victims identified in the order of restitution that will be entered against the defendant.”
“Defendant’s payment of disgorgement is deemed satisfied by the order of restitution that will be entered against him when he is sentenced in the related criminal case,” the court stated.