SEC Charges Former New Jersey Corrections Officer with Crypto Fraud Scheme Targeting Law Enforcement Personnel
John DeSalvo also charged with fraud in separate investment scheme
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington D.C., Aug. 23, 2023 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged former New Jersey State Correctional Police Officer John A. DeSalvo with fraudulently raising funds through the unregistered offering of the Blazar Token, a crypto asset security he created but that collapsed in May 2022. The SEC also charged DeSalvo with misappropriating investor funds, much of which he sent to his personal crypto asset wallets and used to pay for a bathroom renovation.
According to the SEC’s complaint, from the Blazar Token’s launch in November 2021 to its eventual collapse, DeSalvo raised at least $620,000 from approximately 220 investors. As the complaint alleges, DeSalvo claimed that the Blazar Token would replace existing state pension systems and falsely told investors that Blazar Token was registered with the SEC; that he had arranged for Blazar Token to be purchased by automatic payroll deduction; and that investors were guaranteed to receive extraordinary returns. Ultimately, DeSalvo misappropriated and misused investor funds. According to the complaint, DeSalvo targeted law enforcement and first responders with his fraudulent schemes.
Additionally, the SEC’s complaint alleges that, in an earlier fraud scheme, beginning in late January 2021, DeSalvo solicited investors, primarily through social media, to participate in an investment venture where he was to invest their funds in stocks, options, and crypto asset securities. The complaint alleges that, within weeks of depositing the $95,000 he raised from 17 investors into his brokerage account, DeSalvo lost about $17,000 of those funds in speculative investments, misappropriated the remaining $78,000, and told investors that the group’s securities had lost all value due to poor market conditions.
“We allege that DeSalvo orchestrated several fraudulent investment schemes that targeted law enforcement personnel and promised astronomical returns, including one involving a crypto asset security that would somehow replace traditional state pension systems. Rather than producing any returns or revolutionary technology, he instead misappropriated and misused investor money,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “What’s particularly offensive about this case is that DeSalvo used his status as a former corrections officer to gain the trust of fellow law enforcement personnel, a number of whom invested their savings with him. I am proud that the SEC is able to deliver some measure of justice to those brave first responders who DeSalvo victimized by holding him accountable for his appalling conduct.”
“Our complaint alleges a brazen affinity fraud that preyed on retail investors’ trust and sense of community,” said David Hirsch, Chief of the Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Too often in crypto, we see promoters perpetrate familiar frauds in shiny new wrappers by making claims that are difficult for investors to independently verify. Registering the offer and sale of securities enables critical oversight and improves disclosures to investors, and we will continue to pursue those who fail to abide by the securities laws’ registration requirements.”
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, charges DeSalvo with violating the antifraud and offering registration provisions of the securities laws. It seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey today announced criminal charges against DeSalvo.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Brian Higgins and Brian Thomas of the Philadelphia Regional Office and David Snyder of the Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit. It was supervised by Assunta Vivolo, Scott A. Thompson, Nicholas P. Grippo, Jorge G. Tenreiro, and David Hirsch. The SEC’s litigation will be handled by Christopher R. Kelly and supervised by Gregory R. Bockin.