A British man has been ordered to pay $571 million after a United States court found he had operated a scheme to defraud investors out of Bitcoin

Benjamin Reynolds, from Manchester, was told to pay $143 million in restitution to defrauded customers and a civil fine of $429 million.

The judgment is the result of a 2019 enforcement action brought by the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC), charging Reynolds, conducting business as “Control Finance Ltd”, with fraud and misappropriation.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York heard that Franklin used a public website, social media accounts and emails to solicit Bitcoin worth $143million between May and October 2017.

“Reynolds falsely represented to customers that Control-Finance traded their bitcoin deposits in virtual currency markets and employed specialized virtual currency traders who generated guaranteed trading profits for all customers,” said a CFTC statement.

CFTC said Reynolds constructed an elaborate affiliate marketing network that relied on fraudulently promising to pay outsized referral profits, rewards, and bonuses to encourage customers to refer new customers.

“In fact, Reynolds made no trades on customers’ behalf, earned no trading profits for them, and paid them no referral rewards or bonuses”, CFTC said.

“While Reynolds represented that he would return all bitcoin deposits to customers of Control-Finance by late October 2017, he never did and instead retained the deposits for his own personal use. Customers lost most or all of their bitcoin deposits as a result of the scheme.”