The scheme allegedly claimed it could generate returns of up to 2.2% a day by leveraging AI to trade more often and with higher profits than a person could.
Securities regulators from Montana, Texas, and Alabama have jointly filed enforcement actions against cryptocurrency trading platform YieldTrust.ai, alleging it is “perpetrating a Ponzi scheme.”
According to April 4 statements from the Montanan, Texan and Alabamian regulators, YieldTrust.ai and its Romanian owner, Stefan Ciopraga, claimed the decentralized application (DApp) called “YieldBot” is “powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence” and is “capable of executing 70 times more trades with 25 times higher profits than any human trader could.”
The regulators alleged YieldTrust didn’t provide “any proof” to investors that the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bot exists, “let alone that it is performing at the level YieldTrust.ai claims.”
Montana’s regulator stated in its cease and desist order that YieldBot was developed for Binance’s BNB Smart Chain and could interface with staking programs to generate returns for new investors of up to 2.2% per day through:
“[Analyzing] the crypto markets and – in milliseconds – make its own trading decisions, autonomously choosing from hundreds of trading methods and chaining them together to create unique strategies – achieving an exhilarating performance.”
However, the state regulators claimed an independent firm that conducted an audit of YieldBot’s smart contract found it was “dangerous,” as “the deploying team retained sufficient control to block users from withdrawing their assets.”
As noted by the regulator’s statements and highlighted in an April 4 tweet from Montana’s securities commissioner, Troy Downing, scammers are apparently capitalizing on the hype surrounding AI “by developing high-tech ploys to deceive investors.”
An order from Montana’s regulator demands YieldTrust.ai cease and desist all activity in the state and seeks a total of $100,000 in fines while the Texas State Securities Board issued multiple cease and desist orders.
After the audit of its smart contract was published, YieldTrust.ai allegedly announced it would cease operations, which appears to be verified by the lack of trading activity according to DappRadar data.
However, the regulator’s orders accuse YieldTrust.ai of “raising capital from the public to cover withdrawals from prior investors,” which, alongside the promise of high returns, are the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme.
AI has become far more prominent, accessible and surrounded by hype since the release of the ChatGPT AI chatbot on Nov. 30 by AI research company OpenAI.
Despite its inaccuracy at times, ChatGPT has proved to be a powerful tool, with the latest version capable of passing the bar, acing SATs and even identifying exploits in smart contracts.