In reality, USI Tech was a classic Ponzi scheme. It offered outrageous rates of return and encouraged investors to boost their earnings by introducing more people to the USI Tech family, with the fees from new investors then used to pay off existing customers.It wasn't long before authorities in the United States, Canada and New Zealand caught up with the company and issued cease and desist orders. Just a few months later, an estimated tens of millions of dollars had vanished from investors' accounts.
But that wasn't the end of USI Tech's story. The model soon reappeared with a new name: Eyeline Trading. The former USI Tech website was redirected to Eyeline, but when authorities caught on to the seemingly rehashed scam, Eyeline rebranded to its current form: WealthBoss.we spoke with six victims of USI Tech who have collectively lost thousands. One man, a security guard from Tel Aviv, who didn't want to be named, said he lost more than $147,000 to scammers behind USI Tech and Eyeline. He earns about $8.50 an hour, so a loss of that scale is irretrievable. Being duped also had an impact on his confidence and mental health. "I lost all my life; I can't recover from this," he said, "I don't have any kind of a future."How was it possible for USI Tech to trick investors out of huge amounts of money? Its polished trading platform and lush, real-world investor events in Europe and Australia certainly helped.
But its biggest draw was the "breakthrough" mining technology, which placed mining rigs in an underground vault in Iceland. USI Tech claimed the rigs could run for longer without overheating and, therefore, mine "14 - 16 bitcoin a day," which would put it in the top tier of mining operations in the world. It even published a video tour of the mining rig that featured clear USI Tech branding inside the facility.Eyeline, just like USI Tech, claims to make profits by both trading and mining Bitcoin. It also offered lofty returns on investments -- as high as 0.66 percent a day, which would turn a $1,000 investment into $11,000 over the course of a year. A USI Tech website, usitech.io, also redirected to Eyeline.
The question of who is behind these companies is complex. Publicly, four key influencers have operated across every rebrand and claimed to make huge amounts of money in the process.
Lee Oakey, Kerry Stockton, Rodney Burton and Michael Faust were all associated with USI Tech, recruiting thousands of investors to part with their cash.
In one Facebook post, Oakey, from the United Kingdom, said that when you have an "amazing business" like USI Tech, "all you want to do is tell the world... so I did!"
Stockton, who is also a Brit and -- according to her Facebook profile -- is in a relationship with Oakey, boasted that the company was changing lives. In one Facebook status, she posted a link to a USI Tech video and claimed a man had paid for his daughter's university education by investing in Bitcoin.Oakey and Stockton now live together in Australia.
Meanwhile, Burton -- also known as "Bitcoin Rodney" -- flaunted how his success reportedly allowed him to buy a $350,000 Lamborghini with Bitcoin. Burton was released from jail in 2010 after serving five years for drug dealing, but claimed he, "has learned from my past mistakes and errors."
In a YouTube clip of a USI Tech party on a Spanish island, Faust said he'd recruited at least 3,000 investors.