Lindsay Lohan, Jake Paul and Soulja Boy hit with US charges over crypto scheme

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Eight celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Jake Paul have been charged by US regulators with participating in an illegal crypto scheme.

The famous names allegedly used their social platforms to boost two crypto tokens without disclosing they were paid to promote them.

The charges were announced by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday.

In a news release, the SEC said Lohan, 36, and 26-year-old Paul have paid to settle the charges without admitting guilt.

The other celebs charged are musician Soulja Boy, 32, whose real name is DeAndre Cortez Way, singer Austin Mahone, 26, porn actress Michele Mason, 44, better known as Kendra Lust.

Musician Ne-Yo, 43, real name Shaffer Smith, rapper Lil Yachty, 25 (Miles Parks McCollum) and Senegalese-American singer Akon, 49, (Aliaune Thiam) are accused.

Soulja Boy (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Soulja Boy (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The group is accused of illegally promoting TRX and BTT crypto assets “without disclosing that they were compensated for doing so and the amount of their compensation,” the SEC said.

Justin Sun, a crypto investor and diplomat for the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, is also accused of fraud by manipulating the trading activity of the two tokens to make it appear as if they were actively being traded in a crime known as “wash trading”.

Mr Sun, a Chinese-born protégé of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, is known for having once paid $4.6 million (£3.7m) to have dinner with investor Warren Buffett.

The SEC added in their news release Mr Sun is accused of “orchestrating a promotional campaign in which he and his celebrity promoters hid the fact that the celebrities were paid for their tweet”.

His companies - Tron Foundation Limited, BitTorrent Foundation Ltd., and Rainberry Inc. (formerly BitTorrent) - are also charged as part of the scheme.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler said: “This case demonstrates again the high risk investors face when crypto asset securities are offered and sold without proper disclosure.

“Sun and his companies not only targeted US investors in their unregistered offers and sales, generating millions in illegal proceeds at the expense of investors, but they also coordinated wash trading on an unregistered trading platform to create the misleading appearance of active trading.”

All of the celebrities, apart from Mr Cortez Way, Akon, and Mr Mahone have paid a combined total of more than $400,000 to settle the charges.