USFIA founder Steve Chen has died in prison.
Following a guilty plea entered back in 2020, Chen was sentenced to to ten years in prison in 2021.
The Bureau of Prison’s inmate search function reveals Chen, 65, died on November 19th. Chen’s cause of death is unknown.
Chen, who also went by Li Chen and “Boss”, launched USFIA in 2013. USFIA operated from California and primarily targeted the Asian-American community.
BehindMLM reviewed USFIA in 2015, correctly identifying it as a “GemCoin” Ponzi points scheme.
A few months after the review was published, the SEC shut down USFIA.
Initial reaction from USFIA investors saw them call for the assassination of two cooperating victims.
The SEC originally pegged USFIA investor damages at $32 million. A then ongoing investigation by a court appointed Receiver saw that amount blow out to $180 million.
In 2017 Chen and USFIA, under Receivership control, settled the SEC’s civil fraud charges for $200 million.
When exactly the DOJ began investigating USFIA and Chen is unclear. In February 2020 however, it was revealed Chen had pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion.
Chen’s prison sentenced was handed down on January 11th, 2021.
Victim losses aside, Chen’s brand of MLM Ponzi is fondly remembered for the sheriff and law enforcement cosplay at USFIA events.
At one USFIA event held in September 2015, Chen’s bouncers dressed up as police officers with matching badged uniforms:
Chen, who was armed, presented himself as the Sheriff of GemCoin:
USFIA will also go down as one of the first major MLM crypto Ponzi busts in the US.
Whereas today what’s left of most of the crypto industry in general is written off as fraud, back in 2015 it was still the wild west. There were plenty of suckers for enterprising crypto bros to fleece.
OneCoin was in its relative infancy and Dubai was yet to establish itself as the financial crime den it is today.
Unfortunately we don’t really get MLM Ponzi characters like Chen anymore.
Leading the MLM crypto Ponzi space today are aging nobodies who’ve otherwise achieved nothing meaningful in life. They ride the dregs of crypto “tech” whilst mostly hiding out in Dubai.
As MLM crypto Ponzi business models have become indistinguishably braindead, so too have the scammers behind them.
2013 to 2015 was certainly a different time. Here’s to you Mr. Chen.