SEC Charges Individual for Self-Minting Scam and Unregistered ICO

Litigation Release No. 24980 / December 9, 2020

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Amir Bruno Elmaani, Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-10376 (S.D.N.Y. filed December 9, 2020).

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Amir Bruno Elmaani, who goes by the online alias Bruno Block, for conducting an illegal securities offering of digital tokens and for his scheme to profit by minting millions of unauthorized tokens for himself at no cost and selling them into the secondary market, thereby causing the value of others' tokens to plummet.

As alleged in the SEC's complaint, in the fall of 2017, Elmaani offered and sold tens of millions of digital tokens called Pearl tokens in connection with his venture, Oyster Protocol. According to the complaint, the Pearl tokens were securities, but Elmaani's offer and sale of Pearl tokens was not registered with the Commission. The complaint alleged that Elmaani unlawfully raised approximately $1.3 million through his unregistered sale of Pearl tokens. The complaint also alleged that, on or around October 29, 2018, Elmaani used a web of digital wallets to covertly mint approximately four million unauthorized Pearl tokens for himself for free and immediately began selling the tokens in the secondary market. As alleged in the complaint, Elmaani made approximately $570,000 in illicit gains through the minting and sale of Pearl tokens and, as a result of his sales, the price of Pearl tokens fell by nearly 65%, resulting in significant losses for investors.

The SEC's complaint, filed in federal district court in New York, charges Elmaani with violating the registration provisions of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933 and the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by David Snyder and Assunta Vivolo, who are members of the Cyber Unit, and Polly Hayes in the Philadelphia Regional Office. The litigation is being led by Julia C. Green and supervised by Jennifer Chun Barry. Kelly L. Gibson, Regional Director, and Kristina Littman, Cyber Unit Chief, are supervising the action. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.