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Financial Crime: Instagram influencer Jay Mazini pleads guilty to running $8 million Ponzi scheme and crypto scam

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He made his name by showing people the love, but made his fortune by ripping people off.

An Instagram
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influencer who used videos of himself handing out cash to needy people to amass more than one million followers, has pleaded guilty to stealing over $8 million from thousands of people through a Ponzi scheme and crypto scam.

Jebara Igbara, 27, of Edgewater, NJ, posed online as an altruistic hero named Jay Mazini, showing up at supermarkets and offering to pay for everyone’s groceries. In other videos, he would walk up to fast food restaurants and hand large piles of cash to the people working there. 

In one video, he appeared with the rapper 50 Cent, handing out cash to the employees of a Burger King in Queens. A spokeswoman for 50 Cent didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Igbara claimed he did it to “show love to the people,” but federal prosecutors said his real aim was to make people think he was rich in order to draw them into a variety of investment scams.

“The defendant has admitted to leveraging his Instagram popularity to prey upon innocent investors and steal at least $8 million of their hard-earned money,” said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York. 

Igbara faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.

His attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said his client “has accepted responsibility for all of his criminal activity.”

“He sees the error of his ways and realizes how idiotic he was and wants to move on with his life and make his vicitms whole,” Lichtman added.

According to court documents, Igbara targeted members of New York’s Muslim-American community by soliciting purported investments in stocks, the resale of electronics and the purchasing of Covid-19-related personal protective equipment. 

He would promise investors high rates of return in a short period of time, but instead used the money to pay for his own expenses and gambling habit.

In a separate civil filing, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Igbara launched Halal Capital LLC in 2019 with the promise of using funds for Quran-complaint investments. But instead, he took the money to pay for expensive jewelry and luxury cars, the SEC said.

To further entice people to invest with him, Igbara claimed he was worth $33 million, the court papers said.

In order to pay some investors back and keep others on the hook, Igbara admitted he would use social media to rip people off through a scheme in which he would offer to pay above-market prices for cryptocurrencies, but then not actually hand over the cash. 

Prosecutors said Igbara would send his victims doctored images of wire transfer confirmations to show he had paid them for their crypto when he had not, stealing their money instead.

In March, Igbara was sentenced to five years in state prison in New Jersey for kidnapping a rival who had threatened to expose him, beating him unconscious and threatening to kill him with a machete.

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