Amir Bruno Elmaani, also known as Bruno Block, the 31-year-old founder of the now-defunct Oyster Protocol, has been sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion. This verdict follows Elmaani’s guilty plea on April 6. He confessed to illicitly creating and selling Pearl tokens without paying taxes on substantial profits.
Oyster Protocol and Deceptive Practices
Elmaani, also known as “Bruno Block,” gained attention between September and October 2017 by promoting the cryptocurrency Pearl (PRL). Marketed as a means for investors to access data on the Oyster Protocol’s blockchain-based storage platform, the project took a dark turn in October 2018.
Contrary to the project’s goals, Elmaani clandestinely minted a large volume of new PRL tokens without informing the Oyster Protocol team or investors. These tokens were then strategically dumped on the market for personal gain.
Elmaani’s Plea Agreement
In his plea agreement, Elmaani openly admitted to the covert creation and sale of PRL tokens. He further acknowledged that counterparties were likely unaware of the increased token supply. Despite reaping millions from this exit scheme, Elmaani misleadingly reported only a fraction of his earnings in tax returns.
The court discovered that in 2018, Elmaani spent extravagantly on multiple yachts, a carbon-fiber composite company, home improvements, and real estate. Notably, he utilized shell companies and associates to conceal his financial activities. This included dealing substantially in precious metals and storing gold bars on one of his yachts.
Legal Consequences and Restitution
Amidst his lavish lifestyle, Elmaani failed to report or pay taxes on cryptocurrency proceeds. Further,he involved friends and family as nominees to conceal transactions. The Department of Justice emphasized that Elmaani’s actions not only violated tax obligations but also betrayed the trust of investors in the Oyster Protocol.
In addition to the four-year prison sentence, Elmaani faces one year of supervised release and is obligated to pay $5.5 million in restitution.