Several crypto companies involved in fraud cases initiated by the SEC have received support under the government’s $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program. Experts note that participation in the assistance program does not provide for a thorough check.
More than 10 crypto companies, against which the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier filed charges of fraud and violation of the law, received payments under the government’s program of anti-crisis assistance to small businesses, which totals $660 billion. Payments ranged from $1000 to $350,000. Such data are contained in the report of the Office of Small Business. The Small Business Assistance Program was designed to “help businesses keep their workforce employed during the coronavirus crisis” and provide loans to businesses to prevent job losses.
Cherubim Interests, founded by Patrick Johnson, was found among the companies that received loans. In January 2018, Cherubim announced it had executed a financing commitment of $100,000,000 to launch an Initial Coin Offering for “The Self Sustaining Intentional Communities Coin,” described as a coin aimed at generating the capital to create “self-sustaining intentional communities across the US and across 57 nations.” In February 2018, the SEC ordered Cherubim Interests, as well as PDX Partners and Victura Construction Group, also founded by Johnson, to cease trading for inaccurate disclosures. According to the SBA, Cherubim Interests received $150,000 and $350,000 in PPP funds.
Another company that received $1,000 to $150,000 in PP funds is Tamarin Health, formerly known as SimplyVital Health. The company said it is developing a “health blockchain ecosystem” called Health Nexus. According to the SEC, at the end of 2017, the company held an ICO, raising $6.3 million as a result of an “unregistered sale of securities.” In August 2019, without admitting or denying the accusations of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SimplyVital agreed to cease operations and returned almost all of the funds raised to investors.
From $1000 to $150,000 (the exact data is not disclosed) was received by ParagonCoin, which promised to “change the cannabis industry as you know it.” The company was founded by the Russian entrepreneur Egor Lavrov and his wife, former Miss Iowa 2014 winner Jessica VerSteeg. The company said its proprietary cryptocurrency, ParagonCoin (PRG), will help “quickly, easily, and verifiably transferring funds B2C or B2B,” helping marijuana growers and merchants. The pair raised $12 million in investment capital through the ICO, according to the SEC. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the amount of attracted investments was several times higher ($70 million). Under the signed agreement with the SEC, Paragon Coin agreed to return the money to investors in exchange for lower fines and a drop from fraud charges, but failed to meet the deadline. In April 2020, a bankruptcy notice appeared on the Paragon Coin website.
The ICOBox of Russian entrepreneur Nikolay Evdokimov, accused by the SEC of illegal sale of securities worth $14.6 million, also received $1,000-$150,000 from the US budget. In March 2020, the SEC through the court obtained a decision to fine the company for $16 million.
According to critics of the Small Business Assistance Program, the US government has created a program full of loopholes and without the necessary protection against fraud and abuse. The Wall Street Journal article described numerous payments to companies with troubled backgrounds, including criminal convictions, civil complaints and delinquent investigations. According to the WSJ, Jim Bakker, a disgraced Christian televangelist and convicted fraudster who recently promoted fake coronavirus treatment on nationwide cable television, also received PPP funding.