Bitcoin Latinum, a new cryptocurrency prominently endorsed by 16-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, has become mired in a lawsuit alleging securities fraud by the company and one of its executives, Kevin Jonna.
In the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 in a U.S. District Court in Michigan, three plaintiffs allege that Jonna and Bitcoin Latinum as a company diverted and misappropriated investment funds for personal use. The trio of plaintiffs also allege the crypto startup committed securities fraud and wire fraud in offering and “purportedly selling” Bitcoin Latinum tokens.
Two of the three plaintiffs are cousins of Jonna, who served as a sales agent for the pending launch of the altcoin, which was initially scheduled for October or November of 2021 but has been pushed back to an indeterminate date in early 2022. The three plaintiffs claim to have invested several hundred thousand dollars in Bitcoin Latinum in late 2021 due to Jonna’s sales efforts, but have been unsuccessful in being able to pull back that investment, nor have they received their Bitcoin Latinum (“LTNM”) tokens. The coin launched in late October, and Hellmuth has been featured by the company in at least one press release as a celebrity endorser.
The three plaintiffs — Raymond Jonna, Simon Jonna, and Farid Jamardov — live in the greater Detroit area, where the action was filed.
Among the claims the three plaintiffs made is that the company, which claims to be based in Palo Alto, California, is selling unregistered securities. The lawsuit also alleges that no company called Bitcoin Latinum has ever been registered to do business in California.
The founder and CEO of Bitcoin Latinum is Donald Basile. Basile is also the founder and CEO of Monsoon Blockchain Corporation, which claims to be “Asia’s premier blockchain company,” and which is closely aligned with Bitcoin Latinum. According to a June 2021 press statement regarding Bitcoin Latinum’s launch, Monsoon Blockchain Corporation was “selected by Bitcoin Latinum as its foundation partner.”
Hellmuth described as ‘angel investor’ in online database
At least one investment-tracking database describes Hellmuth, a Palo Alto resident, as an angel investor in the Bitcoin Latinum startup. Hellmuth tweeted about his involvement with the company last July, but did not mention any investment element, instead describing himself as a paid endorser:
Hellmuth cited his belief that the new altcoin would help reduce the transactional costs that have plagued many cryptocurrencies, though since Bitcoin Latinum has yet to launch, that hope remains to be proven out. Bitcoin Latinum, despite its moniker, is also unconnected to the original Bitcoin.
Hellmuth himself spent the entire WSOP sporting a Bitcoin Latinum-branded ball cap as part of his daily outfit. Poker pro Brandon Cantu, a good friend of Hellmuth’s is also affiliated with Bitcoin Latinum and attended a launch party for the coin last September.
Bitcoin Latinum promises countersuit
In a press release issued on Thursday, Bitcoin declared the lawsuit frivolous and promised to sue the plaintiffs and their attorneys for not less than a billion dollars each. “It is the official stance of Bitcoin Latinum that the accusations are without merit. Bitcoin Latinum neither had a relationship with nor received any investment from the plaintiffs,” the company’s statement declares.
However, the above statement does not address whether Jonna misappropriated investment funds, or whether he was even affiliated with the company. The plaintiffs’ action also fails to specify Kevin Jonna’s exact position with the altcoin startup, though it does list 15 separate causes of action against Jonna and Bitcoin Latinum.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze