The professional Brazilian soccer players – Gustavo Scarpa, Mayke Rocha de Oliveira, and Willian Bigode – have reportedly lost over $5 million due to investing in an alleged fraudulent cryptocurrency firm called Xland.
The company said it did not run a pyramid scheme and promised to reimburse the victims.
Athletes Have Fallen Victims
Scarpa – Brazilian soccer player who plays for Premier League club Nottingham Forest – and Mayke Rocha de Oliveira (better known as Mayke) – who competes at Brazil’s Serie A team Palmeiras – were supposedly urged to join Xland as investors by Willian Bigode.
The platform promised returns of up to 5% a month, but it seems like it drained the players’ investment. Scarpa distributed 6.3 million reais (around $1.2 million), while Mayke parted with 4 million reais (approximately $757,000). Both players filed complaints with the police several months ago. Scarpa recently commented:
“I’ve always seen stupid people fall victim to pyramid schemes and scams. Finding myself in a situation like that is horrible.”
Bigode – a former teammate of the victims at Brazil’s reigning champion Palmeiras – denied persuading the players to invest in Xland. He said he is also a victim of the supposed scam, losing 17.5 million reais (over $3.3 million):
“I’m not a scammer, I didn’t take anyone’s money. I’m a victim, too, because I haven’t gotten my own money back to this day.”
Vinicius Salva – lead investigator on the case – stated there was “strong evidence” that Xland operated as a pyramid scheme. On the other hand, the firm rejected those claims, saying the investor losses resulted from the demise of the crypto exchange FTX in November 2022. Xland also vowed to restore the soccer players’ funds.
Some of Brazil’s Biggest Crypto Scams
The largest nation by landmass in South America has become a hotbed for cryptocurrency schemes over the past few years.
The local authorities detained Claudio Oliveira, a.k.a. “The Bitcoin King,” in 2021 on suspicion of swiping 7,000 BTC from clients of his Bitcoin Banco Group. The investigators claimed that he transferred the stolen assets to his personal wallet. Upon his arrest, the police confiscated hard wallets belonging to Oliveira, alongside luxury cars and a huge amount of cash.
Brazil’s law enforcement agencies carried out a similar operation last year, halting the operations of a criminal organization led by the businessman Francisco Valdevino da Silva, better known as the “Bitcoin Sheikh.” Per the accusations, the gang’s members lured people to join their crypto platform, promising them up to 20% returns on their investment.
The investigation, named “Operation Poyais,” estimated that the wrongdoers stole a considerable amount of funds from victims throughout the years and laundered $766 million worth of digital currencies.
Featured Image Courtesy of Nottingham Post