The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a court order freezing the assets of a Texas-based initial coin offering that claimed to have raised more than $600 million.
The order filed in federal court in Dallas halts AriseBank from raising any additional cash from investors, according to a statement from SEC Tuesday. The agency alleges Jared Rice, 29, illegally raised funds from individual investors beginning in November without registering with regulators, according to the complaint. Also accused is co-founder Stanley Ford, 45, who lives in Dubai.
The agency froze crypto assets including Bitcoin, dogecoin and litecoin among others and appointed a receiver to return investor cash.
“This is the first time the commission has sought the appointment of a receiver in connection with an ICO fraud,” said Steve Peikin, co-head of SEC enforcement said in a statement. “We will use all of our tools and remedies to protect investors from those who engage in fraudulent conduct in the emerging digital securities marketplace.”
The asset freeze is the biggest action yet for the agency trying to police a red-hot market that’s raised billions from a range of investors. The regulator has been sounding the alarm about the offerings, which are most likely securities that must be registered to comply with U.S. securities laws.