For First Time, CFTC Cracks Down on Crypto’s ‘Pump-and-dump’ Schemes

The CFTC first charged McAfee and Watson in March 2021

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Commodity Futures Trading Commission | Source: Shutterstock

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key takeaways

  • CFTC charged Jimmy Gale Watson, Jr., an associate of the late John McAfee, $144,736
  • The scheme resulted in profits in excess of $2 million, the CFTC alleged in the complaint

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for the first time cracked down on a so-called “pump-and-dump” crypto scheme Monday. 

A New York judge ordered Jimmy Gale Watson, Jr., an associate of the late John McAfee, to pay $144,736 in ill-gotten gains he allegedly received from the scheme. 

Watson was an “executive advisor” to McAfee, who was an entrepreneur in the crypto space. 

Watson is also permanently banned from trading derivatives, as well as registering with the CFTC — a requisite of certain types of institutional investing.

“Ensuring appropriate customer protections and enforcing against fraudulent schemes like this one are core principles deeply embedded in the agency’s legal and regulatory framework, history, and ethos,” the CFTC said in a statement. “Such fraudulent and manipulative schemes are particularly egregious when they target the most vulnerable market participants, here hardworking retail investors.”

The CFTC first charged McAfee and Watson in March 2021. The CFTC alleged the two secretly accumulated positions in digital assets and deceptively promoted the tokens on social media as valuable long-term investments — before selling for a substantial profit. 

The grift resulted in profits in excess of $2 million, the CFTC claimed in the complaint. The fraud involved tokens, including verge (XVG), dogecoin (DOGE) and reddcoin (RDD).

Last Thursday, the SEC separately won a judgment against Watson for his role in McAfee’s alleged initial coin offering (ICO). Watson was fined $375,000 for his alleged participation. 

In 2020, the SEC alleged that Watson and McAfee promoted investments in the ICO without disclosing that they were compensated for doing so.

Watson is now also banned permanently from participating, directly or indirectly, in the issuance, purchase, offer or sale of any digital asset deemed a security — a still very-much evolving classification. 

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