Luiz Capuci Charged With Running Crypto Scam

People who knew Luiz Capuci knew him as a big spender. Luxury cars, designer duds, a mansion near the beach — Capuci had it all. If you were going out to eat, Capuci — or “Junior,” as he liked to call himself — was buying. His daughter-in-law, Katlyn Capuci, recalled a time she went shopping with Capuci and he offered to pay for whatever she wanted. When she hesitated, she says, he pulled out his phone and showed her a bank account he claimed held $ 4 billion.

“Don’t worry about it,” he told her. “I got it.”

Hoods wasn’t always this rich. In promotional materials for his business, he claims to have spent a period of his life homeless “in freezing weather.” Records show he filed for bankruptcy as recently as 2008. But all that changed with the rise of crypto. Family members say Capuci got in on bitcoin early, then launched his own business mining the cryptocurrency.

The company, Mining Capital Coin (MCC), was successful enough that Capuci was able to buy a home outside of West Palm Beach, Florida. When his third wife became pregnant in 2020, the gender reveal consisted of two Ferraris and a Lamborghini shooting blue smoke out of the exhaust pipes. The baby’s first birthday bash featured a ball pit and a live giraffe.

The profligate displays of wealth left his family members a little suspicious.

“I was always like ‘Junior, when’s the money gonna stop?'” His daughter-in-law recalled. “And it never did. How, I don’t know. ”

As it turned out, federal investigators were wondering the same thing. Now, the 44-year-old is at the center of two federal investigations — and on the lam in Brazil.

According to a lawsuit recently filed in Florida federal court, Capuci launched his company in 2017 with an enticing promise: Invest at least $ 125 today, and get a guaranteed 1 percent return every day from there on out. Someone who invested $ 10,000, for example, could expect returns of $ 700 every week — payable whenever they liked. Capuci claimed the profits came from trading in cryptocurrencies and traditional stocks, as well as from bitcoin mining — the intensive computer process required to harvest the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency.

A bitcoin mining machine can cost upwards of $ 4,000, and the energy required to mine a single coin three times that. Capuci and his business partner, Emerson Pires, claimed to own more than 45.00 such machines, simultaneously operating in Miami, Vermont, and Iceland. According to the complaint, they frequently showcased the machines in videos posted to Facebook, hyping their business over the sounds of motors whirring.

“You guys like the noise?” Capuci boasted in one such video, according to an indictment also filed in Florida federal court. “It’s mining, it’s mining, making money for you guys.”

Luiz “Junior” Capuci invented the cryptocurrency CAPTLCoin, which is now valued at less than a penny.

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon / The Daily Beast / Getty / Facebook

Capuci allegedly sold stakes in the company through “packages,” which ranged from $ 125 for the “bronze” to $ 1.2 million for the “Royal MVP.” Once they bought in, the complaint claims, investors were encouraged to serve as “sponsors” for the company, bringing in new backers to join in their shared profits. Sponsors would be paid 10 percent of any package that a new investor bought, and receive additional incentives including iPads, Apple Watches, or for especially big accounts, a Porsche Cayenne.

Despite his flamboyance, Capuci worked to give his business an air of authority. In promotional materials and presentations cited by prosecutors, he claimed to have studied computer science at Harvard and worked with the FBI for eight years. He allegedly told potential investors his company had partnered with the Clinton Foundation and the World Bank, the latter of which was helping them secure an investment in eco-friendly power generators.

Most importantly, according to the complaint, Capuci told investors they could cash in on their returns whenever they wanted. All they had to do was make an account with a crypto trading platform called Bitchain and request their earnings from the company’s “back office.” MCC would then transfer the money to their Bitchain wallet in bitcoin, which the investor could then sell for cash or hold it for future sales.

The business was immensely successful: According to the complaint and indictment, Capuci and Pires pulled in at least 65,535 investors, who invested a total of $ 62 million. And the founders rewarded themselves lavishly, taking between $ 5,000 and $ 20,000 a month in bitcoin as salaries.

During the time the company operated, according to court documents, Capuci bought two Ferraris, a Lamborghini, a Mercedes, a yacht, and $ 10,000 worth of clothes at stores like Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Gucci. Pires allegedly bought a Lamborghini of his own, along with a Harley Davidson, a Mercedes, and a Land Rover.

But as the years went on, the complaint claims, the system began showing cracks.

Investors who wanted to take out money were now told they had to take it out in CPTLCoin, a cryptocurrency that Capuci had invented. Bitchain listed CPTLCoin as worth about $ 2.43 per coin, and Capuci insisted it was poised to rise even higher because, he said, he had secured deals with major hotels and casinos to accept it and was about to launch an online “mall” that trafficked only in CPTLCoin. In one video distributed to investors, he claimed the currency would increase tenfold in value by next year, “guaranteed.”

But when investors went to cash out on their CPTLCoin, they told investigators, they were hit with endless roadblocks and delays. Capuci blamed this on problems with Bitchain, telling investors at one point that the company was building new interfaces and was therefore “a little bit slow with transfer and withdrawals.” Later, the company published a “Bitchain COVID 19 Notice” on its website, attributing delays to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, things were falling apart for Capuci at home. In 2019, he filed for divorce from his second wife, a Brazilian woman with whom he had one child. That same year, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Beast and affidavits from SEC investigators, Capuci was sued in St. Louis. Lucie county court for failing to repay the majority of a $ 11,000 loan he took out in 2015, and was ordered to pay another $ 25,127 for failing to pay rent on a different business. The next year, his ex-wife reported that he had failed to pay the mortgage on their home, as required by their divorce agreement. (Asked in a deposition why he stopped paying the mortgage, he replied: “Because I didn’t want to pay it, so I didn’t.”)

Katlyn Capuci said she had always been suspicious of her father-in-law’s business. He was vague about the details and seemed to hire only family members — or attractive young women whose sole job appeared to be verifying photos of potential new investors. He did mention owning a bitcoin mining machine, she says, but told her that when he tried to run it, the energy requirement was so intense it shut down the power to the entire building complex.

“I was always asking Junior, ‘What’s the catch, I don’t get it,'” she said. “He was like, ‘There’s no catch, the people give me their money and they get it later.'”

She added: “I’m like, have you ever seen Wolf of Wall Street? That’s kind of what it sounds like. ”

Apparently the federal government agreed. On April 7, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a 25-page lawsuit against Capuci and Pires, accusing them of running a sham company that defrauded investors out of their funds.

Three weeks later, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida unveiled an indictment charging Capuci with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.

According to documents in both cases, the company Capuci touted to his tens of thousands of investors was essentially worthless. There were no mining machines, no trading robots, no operations in Iceland. The Clinton Foundation and World Bank had never partnered with Capuci’s company. According to an affidavit filed in the SEC lawsuit, Pires told investigators that the business “never operated” inside the United States. MCC, attorneys from the SEC wrote, was “a Potemkin village for the digital age.”

CAPTLCoin, the cryptocurrency Capuci had invented and allegedly forced his investors to accept as payment, was also essentially valueless, worth less than a penny. Even worse, Bitchain — the trading platform Capuci had made them all sign up for, then blamed for the delays in cashing out — was owned by none other than Capuci himself. Domain registration records show Capuci personally registered Bitchain’s website, then paid to make the registration private. Internal company documents identify him as the business’s CEO, according to the SEC complaint.

Capuci never applied to trade his currency on a legitimate platform; never made deals with casinos or hotels or an e-commerce mall. “In short,” lawyers for the SEC wrote, “no investor — or anyone, for that matter — has ever successfully withdrawn, sold, traded or otherwise used their CPTL.”

The SEC alleges Capuci alone netted about $ 18.5 million in crypto assets during the time MCC was active — money he split across dozens of different digital wallets, six different bank accounts, and two PayPal accounts. He also allegedly operated bank accounts in the name of several of the 17 other companies he owned, including one based overseas.

Shortly after the agency issued subpoenas in their investigation, Capuci started shutting down bank accounts and offloading his assets; selling off at least two properties, one car, and the 42-foot yacht, according to investigators. When the SEC served Pires and Capuci in June of last year, they invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and declined to testify. Both men have since fled to Brazil.

An evidentiary hearing in the SEC case was held for May 12; a trial date in the criminal case has not been set. Attorneys for the SEC have asked for Capuci and Pires’ assets to be frozen and their passports seized. An attorney for Capuci said he “vehemently denies” the allegations, but declined to comment further. Pires’ attorney is not listed in court documents and a working number for him was unavailable. He did not respond to emails and a request for comment sent through a family member.

Katlyn Capuci, for one, said she wasn’t surprised at news of her father-in-law’s legal troubles.

“Junior is a very proud man, he’s a very selfish man,” she said. “He doesn’t care about anyone but himself, and he thinks money is the only thing that matters in this world.”

She paused, then added: “I’m sure he would be glad to hear someone is writing something about him.”

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