Brazil’s Federal Police (PF) reportedly halted the operations of a crypto organization that authorities claim defrauded thousands of people worldwide and laundered hundreds of millions in illicit funds.

Though authorities did not name suspects, local Brazilian media has identified the organization’s leader as businessman Francisley Valdevino da Silva, coined the “Bitcoin Sheikh,” the head of a digital asset investment platform that allegedly embezzled funds from over 10 countries.

Law enforcement agents raided 20 addresses linked to the organization on Thursday after a collaborative investigation with U.S. authorities suspected the group of laundering up to US$769 million over the past several years, the authorities said in a statement.

Victims were reportedly assured by the company that a large team of experienced crypto experts would take their funds and pay back monthly returns of 20 percent. The alleged scammers even offered a cryptocurrency token, which according to the FP, lacked backing or liquidity. 

Da Silva, who is said to be linked to over 100 companies in Brazil, placed much of the funds received from his alleged “crypto-asset investment pyramid scheme” into gold bars, luxury cars and expensive watches spread across the country, police said. 

After his victims’ money ran dry, da Silva began to delay and soon stopped paying monthly returns owed to clients and then blocked withdrawal requests on his platform.

In a note to local news outlet g1, da Silva’s attorney said that his client is ready to provide clarification on his activities “with the scope of proving the effective regularity and lawfulness of business operations.”

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