At 19 years old, Stefan Qin – a self-proclaimed math prodigy – thought it would be a great idea to leave his university studies in Australia and relocate to New York to start two cryptocurrency hedge funds. Now, at 24, he has pled guilty to a scam that could land him a 20-year jail sentence.
Stefan Qin Pleads Guilty
Qin is the man behind Virgil Sigma and VQR, two cryptocurrency-based hedge funds. He told clients that he had developed algorithms that allowed him to potentially monitor crypto prices all over the world and manipulate them accordingly. He also stated that he could potentially garner clients as much as 500 percent returns on their portfolios, another scoop that got a lot more people to step aboard.
This led Qin into a life of luxury. The business owner posted on his LinkedIn page:
I’m a quant with a deep interest and understanding in blockchain technology. I’m using this knowledge to build the next generation of financial services. My day-to-day is managing a cryptocurrency hedge fund with a focus on high-frequency quant strategies.
Everything sounded fantastic at first. There was only one problem: the hedge funds weren’t real, and in the end, Qin wound up stealing close to $90 million of his customers’ money, and approximately 100 investors contributed to Qin’s growing money stash.
Peter C. Fitzhugh – a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – explained in a statement:
Virgil Sigma and VQR, two multimillion-dollar cryptocurrency investment funds, were revealed to be slush funds for Qin to live his extravagant lifestyle. Qin orchestrated this reprehensible criminal scheme for many years, making misrepresentations and false promises that coaxed investors into pouring millions of dollars into fraudulent cryptocurrency firms, all the while stealing the hard-earned money of his investors. Furthermore, Qin mastered the art of trickery by representing these firms as profitable investment strategies so more victims fell to his tactics and were defrauded of nearly $100 million.
Situations like this have proved common in the cryptocurrency space. One of the biggest red flags that arguably came with the scam was the idea that returns could be increased by 500 percent. As we all know by now, returns are never guaranteed in the crypto world given how volatile the assets can be. Thus, while it is an old phrase, the idea of something “being too good to be true” certainly applies here.
Regret for His Actions
Among the items that Qin obtained for himself was a $23,000-a-month lavish apartment in New York. The apartment was situated in 50 West, a 64-story luxury condo structure located near the financial district. Among the items to come with the residence was a pool, a hot tub, and a golf simulator.
After pleading guilty, Qin commented that he “deeply regretted his actions” and that he would spend the rest of his life “atoning” for what he did.