A bitcoin scammer who was uncovered and prosecuted by his victims has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Doede Osman Khan, 50, warned investors about online scams and said he would help them avoid falling prey to con artists while also making them money.
But he stole thousands from people across the world, including Teesside and Canada, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Khan, from Staffordshire, was jailed for 15 months and suspended for 18 after admitting seven counts of fraud.
He was prosecuted after victims investigated the man they knew as Danny Turner.
Khan offered tutorials on how to buy and trade the cryptocurrency online in early 2019 and within a few months of starting had dozens of clients around the world.
His Honour Judge Chris Smith said Khan, of Hunter’s Points in Loggerheads, near Market Drayton, made “outlandish claims” and “guaranteed” large profits with “zero risk”.
He said the scammer “beguiled” victims with “wholly fictitious” online presentations, adding Khan abused and “took advantage” of their “ignorance” and trust they placed in him.
Khan claimed it was initially an honest and “benevolent” business, but the fraud began to cover up unexpected losses.
The judge said he was “entirely satisfied this was a dishonest venture from the outset”, and upon seeing early success “greed got the better” of Khan.
Victims would invest their bitcoin funds with him to buy trading bots, which he said would monitor the market.
But behind the complicated talk, there was a very simple scam – he just took their Bitcoin.
He shared pictures of himself enjoying a globe-trotting lifestyle with flash cars, yachts, and skyscrapers.
The court heard he stole £20,000, but his victims claimed the bitcoin they lost would be worth much more now, possibly as much as £725,000.
Stephen Johnson from Stockton and Margery Willhelm from Canada worked with other investors to compile a 700-page dossier on Khan.
‘Needs to be stopped’
Mr Johnson said Khan was “very good at sowing the seeds” of the fear of missing out.
Mrs Willhelm, whose husband owns a private investigation firm, told the BBC: “The stress that this has caused me is horrible, but right from the beginning I thought ‘I will find him’.
“This is not fair. You can’t make your life scamming people and living the rich lifestyle when other people are suffering.
“I went ‘No this cannot happen, this needs to be stopped’.”
Bethean McCall, a solicitor from Wootson Woodhouse who took on the case, said the fraud had had an “emotional impact” as well as a financial one on victims.
“They feel almost a little bit of a fool,” she said, adding: “It really is a journey to get them to see sense and say ‘look this isn’t your fault, this is happening across the world’.”
Khan was also made the subject of a four-month curfew, with a proceeds of crime hearing to be held in the future.