Millions of dollars have been returned to hundreds of victims of an illegal digital currency operation that was run by a Camarillo businessman currently on death row for hiring hitmen to kill his wife in 2008, officials announced Friday.
James Michael Fayed, 56, arranged to have his wife killed during their divorce proceedings to stop her from coordinating with federal investigators looking into their international gold-trading business, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The 44-year-old victim, Pamela, was stabbed 13 times in a parking garage in Century City after a meeting between the couple and their lawyers, the Ventura County Star reported. FBI agents arrested him soon after for operating a money transmitting business without a license.
For years, Fayed’s company e-Bullion.com claimed to provide investment opportunities in precious metal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said.
People used real money to buy “e-currency” purportedly backed by precious metal reserves maintained by Fayed’s businesses in the U.S. and Australia, authorities said. Users were then able to trade among each other on the website. When they wanted to cash out, they had to pay substantial fees.
“In practice, e-Bullion allowed individuals engaging in fraud to obtain money from victims and move the money around the world while remaining virtually anonymous and avoiding many global banking reporting requirements,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Authorities have since seized millions from bank funds and liquidated gold, silver and platinum reserves from Fayed and his companies, federal prosecutors said. They reported disbursing $1.8 million to more than 300 victims in 2014, $11.7 million to more than 1,000 victims in 2015, and $9.8 million to some 1,000 victims on Wednesday.
Fayed received the death sentence for his wife’s killing in November 2011, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Gov. Gavin Newsom has since signed an executive order for a moratorium on capital punishment in the state.
Fayed is being held at the San Quentin State Prison.