Internet currency-trading ring involved Latvian bank

Secure Investment, an online currency trading firm that disappeared from the web leaving untold numbers of clients losing their investments, used a complex system of bank accounts, including one unnamed bank in Latvia, to defraud around 100,000 clients in 140 countries around the world, reported Bloomberg financial news Thursday.

Jaron Mark, a medical resident at a hospital in Tampa, Florida, said he spent nine months seeking a safe investment before he chose Secure. During that time, he monitored Secure’s website routinely, watched the daily trading reports showing consistent success and decided to invest with the company.

In April of 2014, he wired $10,000 to a bank in Latvia so that Secure could trade forex for him, reported Bloomberg. Two weeks later, the Secure website was gone. At first, Mark, 31, wasn’t too concerned:

“They’d go down for maintenance temporarily,” he says. “Then they’d come back up, like clockwork. This time around, they didn’t.” He says he lost the majority of his savings. “I don’t make a lot of money,” he says. “It took me a long time to earn it. I’m hurt and upset. I don’t have much hope. I feel like a fool.”

Through its homepage on the web, Secure Investment, registered in Panama in 2008, offered high-risk, high-return currency trading services, promising clients up to 250% in profits on their investment. However, when withdrawal requests began to be delayed repeatedly and then the company’s website went completely offline by May 1, financial regulators around the world began to receive complaints from seething and heartbroken customers left with no other recourse.

“This type of forex fraud is an assault on the international financial system -- victimizing investors in multiple countries while concealing where the wrong-doing took place,” said U.S. Senator Carl Levin, who is chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and became aware of Secure Investment when asked about it by Bloomberg Markets.

Customers in 11 countries on five continents say they have seen their money evaporate with Secure. Twenty-five investors interviewed say Secure, which was incorporated in Panama in 2008, had instructed them to wire money to banks in Australia, Cyprus, Latvia and Poland.

The company’s website provided an explanation: “From time to time, Secure Investment may change bank account information, because it chooses the financial partner that currently offers more profitable cooperation conditions.”

Because Secure had no real headquarters and existed on the Internet only, an investigation would be challenging.

“Law enforcement will have to focus on the bank accounts, wire transfers and financial transactions that -- with international cooperation and some luck -- might be used to get behind the anonymous shell companies hiding the perpetrators and stolen funds,” said Senator Levin, a Democrat from Michigan.

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