New Egypt: GAS Consultoria creates pole of pyramids with bitcoin in Cabo Frio
The head of a gang accused of operating a billionaire bitcoin (BTC) pyramid scheme was arrested in late August during the Kryptos operation, bringing national media attention to Cabo Frio (RJ), now dubbed “New Egypt” by become a hub of financial scams with digital currencies . Promising surreal profitability by investing its clients’ money in the cryptocurrency , GAS Consultoria Bitcoin , led by former waiter Glaidson Acácio dos Santos, was unmasked by the Federal Police as a billionaire financial pyramid scheme.
And apparently this was not the only operation in progress.
- Pix groups on WhatsApp go viral, but they can be a pyramid
- What is bitcoin? [how to buy and track quote]
Financial pyramid is a crime in Brazil
In this type of crime, scammers promise short-term returns well above the average value of the investment market to quickly attract customers. The practice of financial pyramids is prohibited in Brazil and constitutes a crime against the popular economy.
These schemes are considered illegal because they are only beneficial while attracting new investors. Once investors stop coming in, the scheme is unable to cover the promised returns and then collapses. Therefore, those at the top will profit based on the loss of many at the bottom of the pyramid.
In the case of GAS Consultoria Bitcoin, the alleged cryptocurrency investment company would have moved BRL 38 billion since it began operating, according to the authorities, in 2016. However, the company claims to be in the market for 9 years.
During search and seizure warrants at Glaidson’s mansion, 591 bitcoins (equivalent to about R$150 million), 21 luxury cars, high-value watches, jewelry and R$15 million in cash were found and confiscated.
As revealed by the Ministry of Justice, the gang leader also invested R$ 1.2 billion in cryptocurrencies that were destined for his own accounts and for his wife and partner Mirelis Zerpa, currently a fugitive. The money would also have been passed on to four other people, including Tunay Pereira Lima, appointed as another leader of the gang.
Why did Cabo Frio become the “New Egypt”?
In an interview with Tecnoblog , the director of the Department of Combating Money Laundering and Corruption of the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro, delegate Flávio Porto, confirmed that there are at least ten other companies being investigated in the region for financial crimes, such as pyramids and fraud. . Not all of them would involve cryptocurrencies, but bitcoin is present in most of the complaints.
The delegate believes that what is happening today in Cabo Frio is a “situation of opportunity”. After all, why precisely this municipality became known for hosting cryptocurrency financial pyramid schemes?
According to Porto, the socioeconomic history of the Lagos Region creates a favorable scenario for the application of financial scams. That said, he doesn’t believe the municipality dubbed “New Egypt” is a complex or special case, but a fluke whose catalyst was the great success of Glaidson’s gang.
Scammers copy the successful “formula” of GAS Consultoria
From there, other scammers saw a successful formula that lasted for years. Other companies began to emerge offering investments in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, promising even more surreal profits than GAS Consultoria Bitcoin promised.
Tecnoblog identified at least three suspected financial pyramid groups with cryptocurrencies on social media. The main one, which is not even a formal company, is the so-called Trust Invest Bitcoin, also based in Cabo Frio. On its Facebook page, the alleged digital asset broker promises profits between 15% and 20% monthly, with initial applications starting at R$100. So far, Trust Invest Bitcoin is not publicly the subject of any investigation.
Porto explains that of these more than 10 companies, most are linked to GAS Consultoria Bitcoin in some way. Some CNPJs, for example, were exclusively dedicated to prospecting clients, while others possibly converted and invested the money obtained. He did not provide any names of the other companies involved because the investigation is still under wraps.
43% of pyramids used bitcoin in 2020
According to a survey by the Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM), the entity received an alarming number of complaints of financial schemes and fraud throughout Brazil in 2020. Federal and State. This is a 75% increase compared to 2019 .
The most common type of reported crime is financial pyramids in general. Of the total of 325 complaints, 175 pointed to this type of coup. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies have become dominant in so-called Ponzi schemes.
The CVM conducted a survey among victims of financial pyramids and other similar scams. The survey found that 43% of the schemes specifically used bitcoin to attract potential investors. Also according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the disclosure of this type of scheme occurs mostly through WhatsApp, with 27.5% of dominance, or word of mouth, with 19.7%.
While these data refer to the whole of Brazil, they paint the general picture of financial crimes in the country and explain in part how GAS Consultoria Bitcoin made Cabo Frio dubbed “New Egypt”.
How the GAS Consultoria scheme worked
GAS Consultoria Bitcoin has been operating since at least 2016, offering profits of at least 10% per month with promises of investments in bitcoin. The offer of stratospheric and discrepant profitability compared to the rest of the alternatives in the financial market attracted many investors. Clients of Glaidson’s company spoke to Tecnoblog about how the scheme worked, on condition of anonymity.
Marcos (not his real name) said he trusted GAS Consultoria for years and that he received all the promised returns until Glaidson’s arrest, which took place on August 25 during the first phase of the Kryptos operation. “I even sold a piece of land I had to invest in GAS. And I received my earnings straight away. I was shocked by Glaidson’s arrest, but I believe in his innocence,” he stated.
However, Marcos was lucky, as the pyramid still hasn’t collapsed. Another person who spoke to Tecnoblog stated that he invested R$ 15 thousand in GAS Consultoria. The businessman Caio (fictitious name) explained a little better about the proposal that the company made to potential customers.
The minimum investment amount was R$10,000, with a minimum term of 30 days for the investor to be entitled to withdraw the promised 10% yield. A contract was established with a stipulated time for the application. At the end of the period, the entire amount would be returned.
Again, this source also confirmed that he got all of his money back and that Glaidson delivered on his promises of monthly earnings. As delegate Flávio Porto explained, motorcades and demonstrations arose in defense of Glaidson . These people, as well as the two sources heard by Tecnoblog , believe in the innocence of the leader of GAS Consultoria.
However, investigations by the Federal Police, in conjunction with the GAECO/MPF and the Internal Revenue Service, revealed that Glaidson and his partners did not even invest their clients’ money in bitcoin . In fact, most of the investments were directed towards personal accounts.
In addition, the authorities saw obvious signs of a financial pyramid in the operation of GAS Consultoria. In a statement about the case, the IRS stated:
Glaidson’s arrest sparks demonstrations in his defense
Porto adds that these protests in defense of the criminal only took place because the pyramid of the gang led by Glaidson did not reach the point of collapsing. Therefore, people who benefited from the scheme for years, whether or not they knew it was a pyramid, still trust and believe in the prisoner.
The day after the arrest, motorcades and demonstrations began in defense of the accused. On August 26, Cabo Frio heard dozens of horns accompanied by banners with the image of Glaidson asking for his release. The action was organized by supporters of the former waiter.
The act began with a fireworks display and the protesters even extended a banner that said “Gratidão a GAS”, which was then hung on one of the vehicles of the motorcade.
PF searches for fugitives in Kryptos 2 operation
Last Thursday, September 9th, the Police and the IRS launched the second phase of the Kryptos operation , which resulted in Glaidson’s arrest at the end of August. Now, authorities are looking for two other fugitives, João Marcus Pinheiro Dumas Viana and Michael de Souza Magno, both linked to the bitcoin pyramid scheme.
During the so-called Operation Kryptos 2, a task force went out to serve two probation and two search and seizure warrants. One of the teams carried out the investigation in Cabo Frio, while another was sent to the Peninsula, in Barra da Tijuca, West Zone of Rio de Janeiro.
According to investigators, the two wanted would be the financial operators of the gang leader. One of the teams searched an apartment in the Mandarim Building, a condominium in Barra da Tijuca. There, the PF found only documents and so far neither of the two investigated has been arrested.
In addition to the two men, Glaidson’s wife and partner, Mirelis Zerpa, and her right-hand man, named as one of the leaders of the scheme, Tunay Pereira Lima, are also fugitives. At least four more people linked to the gang are being sought by the police.