Former Texas pastor charged in $500k crypto scam
Larry Leonard and wife accused by SEC of targeting African-American community
Former Texas pastor Larry Leonard and his wife Shuwana have been charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with defrauding almost $500,000 (£406k, €462k) from hundreds of investors. The scams included an initial coin offering for a fake cryptocurrency.
Along with the Leonards, the regulator named their companies Teshua Business Group and Teshuater, a bottled water firm. Allegedly, the couple carried out bogus stock sales in Teshuater, promising “short-term investment returns of up to 3,000 per cent”. This practice raised close to $300,000.
Following the success of this operation the Leonards raised a further $170,395.20 through an ICO of Teshuacoin, a fake crypto which they compared in usability to Bitcoin (BTC). Teshuacoin was presented as being backed by Teshuater’s bottled alkaline water and thus “unique”, which the SEC disputes.
By the Leonards’ own standards the ICO was a failure, raising less than 1 per cent of the $20m total they had hoped to raise.
The regulator argued that Larry and Shuwana Leonard deliberately “targeted investors in the African-American community”, soliciting interest “primarily through social media”.
In one Facebook Live webcast aimed at “‘wealth generation’ for the African-American community”, Larry Leonard “falsely claimed the Commission authorised the Leonards to raise funds from investors and to continue their business operations”.
Accusing the couple of violating securities and fraud laws, the SEC has asked the District Court for the Southern District of Texas to recover the funds raised by the Leonards and to impose a fine.