Easton man admits taking $3M via fake Bitcoin transactions, prosecutor says

An Easton man who headed a cryptocurrency company has admitted taking $3 million from a company by lying about Bitcoin transactions.

Jon Barry Thompson, also known as J. Barry Thompson, was the principal of Volantis, which included a cryptocurrency escrow company called Volantis Escrow Platform LLC and a related company, Volantis Market Making LCC.

The 49-year-old Thompson was arrested in July 2019 at his West Burke Street home on College Hill and charged with two counts each of commodities fraud and wire fraud. He has been free on $500,000 bond in the case.

On Thursday, Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of commodities fraud in federal court in Manhattan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a news release.

Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 7; the charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors previously said Thompson stole $7 million from two companies after lying about transactions of the peer-to-peer digital currency Bitcoin — $3 million from one company and $4 million from a second.

Thompson offered minimized settlement default risk in cryptocurrency transactions, and claimed there was no risk of default, prosecutors allege.

In June and July 2018, Thompson convinced the first company to send his company Volantis more than $3 million for a Bitcoin purchase, prosecutors allege. Thompson allegedly assured the company he had the Bitcoin in hand and that money could not be lost.

Thompson took the money, but never provided the company the promised Bitcoin or returned its money, prosecutors said.

Thompson allegedly gave the company a fake account statement showing he had the company’s money but in reality sent the more than $3 million to a third-party entity purportedly in exchange for Bitcoin without first receiving any of the Bitcoin in hand.

In July 2018, Thompson allegedly convinced a second company to send Volantis more than $4 million for Bitcoin purchases. Again, Thompson is accused of sending a substantial portion of the money to a third party without first receiving any Bitcoin in return, prosecutors allege.

Thompson never gave the second company any Bitcoin and did not return its money, prosecutors said.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney previously said Thompson used phrases and terminology that the victimized companies didn’t understand, and he “allegedly preyed on their ignorance of the emerging cryptocurrency.”

Forbes previously reported Symphony, an Irish investment company that specializes in trading cryptocurrencies, gave Thompson 3.6 million Euros to purchase Bitcoin on its behalf.

Symphony never received any Bitcoin and its money was never returned.

In that case, the plaintiff withdrew the complaint it had brought in federal court in Pennsylvania and, instead, reportedly reached a private settlement with Thompson. Thompson then breached the agreement by failing to make the first settlement payment, Forbes reported.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed separate civil charges against Thompson.

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Sarah Cassi may be reached at [email protected].