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A crypto trading platform that recruited users through prayer circles was a pyramid scheme that made $1 billion for its 'Reverand CEO,' lawsuit says

Kenneth Niemeyer   

A crypto trading platform that recruited users through prayer circles was a pyramid scheme that made $1 billion for its 'Reverand CEO,' lawsuit says
  • New York Attorney General Leticia James has filed a lawsuit against crypto platform NovaTechFx.
  • The lawsuit claims the company defrauded thousands, targeting immigrant and religious communities.

It was once one of the fastest-growing financial platforms on the market. Now, the New York attorney general says NovaTechFx is just a front for a $1 billion pyramid scheme.

New York Attorney General Leticia James filed a lawsuit against the company and its founders, Cynthia and Eddy Petion, in New York Supreme Court this week.

The lawsuit accuses the Petions of defrauding thousands of investors all over the world, bringing in "over a billion dollars by promoting two consecutive fraudulent investment schemes." The lawsuit also names as a defendant AWS Mining Pty, a crypto mining platform previously run by the Petions.

In 2022, NovaTechFx was one of the fastest-growing online financial services in terms of internet traffic. The company's website attracted 12.4 million visitors that year — a 518% increase from the previous year.

NovaTechFx falsely advertised itself as a "registered hedge fund broker" and claimed incorrectly that it had licenses to trade cryptocurrency worldwide, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit accuses the couple of targeting Haitian immigrants in New York City to recruit them into the pyramid scheme using local prayer circles.

After founding NovaTechFx in 2019, Cynthia Petion rebranded herself as the "Reverend CEO," claiming that her company was "God's vision," the lawsuit says.

However, in private messages, she described herself as a "zookeeper" and her investors as a "cult," according to the complaint.

"People join and follow mindlessly… they don't think," Petition says in messages, according to the lawsuit. "They just agree with everything you say."

According to the complaint, NovaTechFx workers created flyers advertising prayer groups hosted by the company with slogans like, "A team that prays together stays together & grows together."

The Petions also operated the NovaTechFx website, which the lawsuit says is where investors would go to invest in cryptocurrency through the company, according to court documents.

After receiving the payments — which the investors intended to use for trading — NovaTechFx would transfer the funds "to a payment processor that did not trade cryptocurrency for NovaTech but merely stored it in NovaTech's wallets," court documents say.

The AG's office says that of the over $1 billion deposited through the website from 2019 to 2023, NovaTechFx only actually traded about $26 million.

"Thousands of New Yorkers were falsely promised better lives if they simply trusted NovaTech and AWS Mining with their money, but it was all a lie," James said in a statement. "These cryptocurrency companies targeted immigrant and religious communities with promises of financial freedom but instead stole their money and drained their life savings.

Renold Julien, executive director of Konbit Neg Lakay, a local Haitian nonprofit, said in the statement that most Haitian immigrants come to the United States to flee violence and don't deserve to be taken advantage of.

"I thank Attorney General James for taking this action to protect all New Yorkers. Konbit Neg Lakay is looking for full restitution," he said.

Since the lawsuit's filing, the NovaTechFx website has displayed a message from Cynthia Petion saying the company experienced a "data breach" and temporarily took down its site.

"We are delighted to inform you about successfully recovered 86% of all official data from the trading platform," the message says. "In order to enable withdrawals, all accounts have been integrated into a new domain. To regain full access, please log in using your exact details on the website."

NovaTechFx did not immediately return a request for comment from Business Insider.