Securities and Exchange Commission v. Okhotnikov was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on August 1, 2022, claiming violations of several provisions of the Securities Act and Securities Exchange Act in connection with offering and selling unregistered smart contracts operated on the Ethereum, Tron, and Binance blockchains. Specifically, the SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief against all Defendants in order to prevent future violations of the federal securities laws, disgorgement of any ill-gotten gains, and civil damages.
The SEC brought the enforcement action against Defendants Vladimir Okhotnikov (“Okhotnikov”), Jane Doe a/k/a Lola Ferrari (“Ferrari”), Mikail Sergeev (“Sergeev”), and Sergey Maslakov (“Maslakov”)—a set of Russia-based individuals who are alleged to have created, operated, and maintained an online pyramid and Ponzi scheme through smart contracts on various blockchains (collectively, the “Founder Defendants”)—and Defendants Samuel D. Ellis (“Ellis”), Mark F. Hamlin (“Hamlin”), and Sarah L. Theissen (“Theissen”) who are individuals alleged to have engaged in the promotion or sale of the smart contracts to investors within the United States (collectively, the “Promoter Defendants”).
The complaint alleges that in the fall of 2019, the Founder Defendants formed Forsage.io (“Forsage”), an unincorporated entity, for the purpose of coding smart contracts on various blockchains and building a website that would serve as an interface for the promotion and sale of the smart contracts. However, the complaint alleges that from January 2020 until the present, Defendants operated, promoted, and maintained an online pyramid and Ponzi scheme through Forsage, allowing millions of retail investors to enter into transactions via the sale of unregistered smart contracts maintained on the Ethereum, Tron, and Binance blockchains. To date, the transactions have totaled over $300 million.