According to a search warrant issued by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Long Island Iced Tea, the company that famously rebranded to Long Blockchain during the height of the 2017 crypto bull market, is suspected of being an elaborate pump and dump scheme. Behind it are thought to be two individuals already under investigation for securities fraud involving another company, Kelvin Medical.
The FBI believes the pair bought up stock in the company prior to the rebrand. The agency alleges that they sold at a healthy profit shortly after the firm’s apparent abrupt change of business interests.
Long Blockchain: Blatant Insider Trading Scheme Suspected of Being Insider Trading
It wasn’t just the most cynical of observers that had suspicions about the timing of Long Island Iced Tea’s decision to supposedly go headfirst into blockchain. The Farmingdale, New York-based firm rode the final extreme wave of mania surrounding the technology in December 2017 and with the announcement of the change of direction, its stock price rocketed nearly 300%.
Of course, Long Island Blockchain never really explored the potential of the technology and its market value promptly declined. The firm was eventually delisted from the Nasdaq stock exchange.
More than a year later, the FBI has uncovered evidence that leads it to believe one individual passed information about the rebrand and to two others who used it to profit from an almost guarantee soar in company value. Incriminating communications were found on an iPhone seized when two of the men suspected of involvement were arrested for securities fraud involving another company, Kelvin Medical.
The warrant states that an informant, referred to as CHS, provided evidence against the pair in both the Long Blockchain and Kelvin Medical cases. Telephone conversations between the three show uneasiness about leaving a paper trail for authorities to follow. CHS reportedly stated in a call with Lindsay on December 20, 2017.
“You and I talked about this before. I just mentioned to Gannon that some of these text messages look just like really evil. I’d rather just pick up the phone.”
The two arrested are Oliver Lindsay and Gannon Giguiere. The FBI believes that the pair received information about the rebrand from a third man, thought to be New Zealander Eric Watson. Watson owned 15 percent of Long Island Iced Tea and subsequently Long Blockchain at the time.
The search warrant alleges that, by December, Lindsay and Giguiere were discussing the “LTEA”, the stock ticker for Long Island Iced Tea prior to the rebrand, and its “Crypto transaction” via email. In the two days prior to the announcement of the rebrand, they exchanged emails with “LIIT Press Release_Block Chain” in the subject.
According to account statements, shares in Long Island Iced Tea were bought in the both Giguiere’s name and that of his wife. Both accounts bought just over $42,350 shares at $2.42 per share. They sold after the rebrand at a price of around $7 per share, making profits of $162,000.
According to a filing by the SEC, Watson sold his shares a few days later.