Vitaly Sokolovsky will not see the age of “Prosperity”
One of the leaders investment fund “Blagopuchie”, Vitaly Sokolovskywas detained in Moscow on suspicion of several episodes of fraud on an especially large scale committed by a group of persons (Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code).
According to the investigation, as cited by Kommersant, Sokolovsky and his companion Vitaly Pavlov For several years, they rented offices in Moscow and attracted tens of millions of rubles from citizens under the guise of investing in cryptocurrency, after which they stole the money. Potential investors were lured by promises of dividend payments of 12% monthly. It is reported that the contribution of one investor averaged 12–15 million rubles.
The agreements were concluded in 2021–2022 on behalf of the Blagopoluchie investment fund. None of them were ultimately implemented.
The investigation believes that the defendants were confident in the low financial literacy of potential investors and their lack of understanding of the specifics of transactions with cryptocurrency. Therefore, during personal meetings with clients, fund management usually actively used complex terminology. To convince investors, they were shown videos and photographs depicting expensive property that other investors were allegedly able to buy. The essence of the fund’s work, as investigators established, was that Blagopoluchiya’s analysts, due to differences in the exchange rate of cryptocurrencies, had to determine at what time the transaction would be most profitable.
Some investors were actually paid the promised interest at first, but this was done, presumably, like in any other pyramid scheme, at the expense of the money of new investors.
Also, to advertise and increase contributions from existing investors, the investment fund held closed events “for its own”, at which gifts and cash prizes were raffled off. So, one of them took place, in particular, in the elite estate “Secrets of Rublev” on Rublevo-Uspenskoye Highway. Also, the heads of the investment fund told clients that the Intelex exchange for independent trading of crypto-assets would soon be launched especially for them, as well as a new program “Dream for 50%”, which will help them purchase apartments, houses and land plots at half the cost. At the same time, to open a personal account on the Intelex platform, a contribution of about $1 thousand was required. At the moment, only about three dozen people have been recognized as victims in the case, but their number is likely to increase significantly as the investigation progresses, and the possible damage from the activities of the infestation fund may exceed hundreds million rubles.
The investment fund worked for several years in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar and Sochi. Now Sokolovsky was detained, and the Gagarinsky District Court sent him to a pre-trial detention center. The Moscow City Court confirmed the legality of this decision. According to the publication, since March 10, another head of Blagopoluchie, Vitaly Pavlov, has been wanted. He was charged in absentia under the same article.
Vitaly Pavlov, previously allegedly convicted of selling drugs, is one of the creators of Blagopoluchie. At least, it was with him that the investors signed contracts. He promised “mountains of gold” and called clients’ investments a “harvest.” “Today is the harvest in our game,” he said.
De jure, Blagopoluchie is managed by others, or rather by small companies that are associated with the fund. This is a certain Denis Chelyushkin and Vitaly Sokolovsky. If there is little information about the first, then the second is well known in narrow circles. He worked as a furniture assembler and studied at a prestigious university. Sokolovsky and Pavlov are only the most visible persons of the “gang” – this is what investors call the team of swindlers who created the illusion of “Prosperity”.
“Here a group of people carried out these actions. That is, eight people are the main ones. These groups, as a rule, come from pyramids. Accordingly, they involved people in a new scheme. It turns out that the money was accepted, then this money went to the MPO, and there through a share scheme, the money was cleaned and whitewashed. And then where this money went is unknown,” said client Yuri Matrosov.
“We’re all having a blast at the millionaire’s club.” How the Blagopoluchie fund scammed investors into “investing” in crypto
Hundreds of private investors from different regions of the country invested 10 billion rubles in the Blagopoluchie fund, which invested in cryptocurrency. Or pretended to invest. The creators of the project promised their clients high incomes, apartments, cottages and planes at half the price and, in general, a beautiful life for millionaires. For the sake of such a future, many investors risked selling their own apartments, they told Izvestia. However, after a short period, the payments stopped – people were never able to get back the millions they had invested. The criminal case of fraud, initiated on the basis of theft, has not yet yielded results. On March 2, investors gathered at the fund’s office, but its doors were closed. Izvestia looked into why the creators of unsuccessful investment projects manage to hide with other people’s millions.
“No apartments, no housing, no huge sums…”
Private clients of the Blagopoluchie investment fund from different regions of the country suffered from the actions of its founders, investors told Izvestia. According to preliminary estimates, people invested 10 billion rubles in a project that promised big profits from investments in cryptocurrencies.
Many investors sold their only apartments and transferred the money to the fund. But in the end, they lost most of the funds, and the project itself, in their opinion, turned out to be an ordinary financial pyramid.
“We and many other investors were deceived. People were left without apartments, without housing, without huge sums of money,” a former client of the fund told Izvestia Olesya Alekseeva.
“Opening an account today with 1 million, in a year you will receive 3 million,” read the advertising video for Blagopoluchiya and the VO company, a “boutique of profitable offers,” as its creators called it. They offered their clients to invest in Bitcoin with a “guaranteed monthly return” of 5–12%.
“Well-being. Millions trust us,” this is the slogan the fund worked under, as follows from its promotional video. It also says that the minimum entry into the project cost 100 thousand rubles. And 12% can be obtained with a one-time investment of 5 million rubles.
The fund’s managers entered into an agreement with investors “on the trust placement of funds”, the money was transferred to the current account. The agreements (available from Izvestia) state that “income from investment activities is not the profit of the contractor and represents the contractor’s payables to the client.”
In order to convince potential investors of the reliability of the project, the founders of the fund regularly organized win-win lotteries, presented expensive gifts, conducted trainings and invited them to a special club – “for millionaires”. They announced the opening of a premium office in one of the Moscow City towers. They promised to buy expensive and prestigious things – cars, apartments, branded watches and even airplanes – at half price. “We’re all having a blast at the millionaires’ club,” said the blooming ladies from the promo video. In another promotional video, an unknown man assured that he had already bought his own plane with the money earned from the fund.
According to the SPARK database, the general director of Blagopoluchie LLC is Vitaly Sokolovsky. Contracts with clients were signed by his partner Vitaly Pavlov. In one of the videos, he calls the investment process a game, and contracts with new investors a harvest. Both businessmen appear in most of the company’s promotional videos and have shares in many smaller companies, as follows from the SPARK database.
It is known about Vitaly Pavlov that the Balashikha court in June 2022 already decided to collect 500 thousand rubles of debt from him in a civil suit. Pavlov borrowed this money from the plaintiff and did not return it, it follows from the court decision. The rest of the victims have not yet received their money back. There is little information about Vitaly Sokolovsky: open sources only say that he studied at MGIMO.
According to the victims, the fund’s managers assured them that the money was “directly invested in a number of promising crypto projects.”
They promised to show “on which instruments the profit was made.” But investors never found out where their money was actually invested. Victims have no confidence that their investments worked in the real investment market.
“Guilt of gullibility”
The victims told Izvestia that some of them received payments, but in November 2022 they stopped completely.
To become investors in the fund, the Gorshkov family from Moscow sold their apartment. They hoped that in this way they could earn money for the treatment of their disabled daughter. The fund offered to double the investment in the shortest possible time. But there was no prosperity in the family – the Gorshkovs were left without money and housing.
— My family invested 11 million. We have nowhere to live, we are sitting on bags. We can’t rent a house because we don’t have money. My youngest daughter’s money, which we had set aside for rehabilitation, also went to the fund,” investor Olga Gorshkova told Izvestia.
Pensioner Valentina Kostenko two years ago came under a program for resettlement from emergency housing in the Arkhangelsk region. True, instead of an apartment I received compensation – almost 2 million rubles. Representatives of the fund convinced the woman to invest these funds in a “super profitable” project. Now the pensioner is forced to rent a one-room apartment in Shcherbinka, and her daughter helps her with food and treatment.
“I can’t live, I can’t sleep.” I understand that I’m to blame – I’m to blame for my gullibility,” Valentina Ivanovna cries.
Oleg Demidov from Moscow told Izvestia that he invested 30 million rubles in Blagopoluchie, and there are also victims from Saratov, Penza, St. Petersburg and other cities.
Fund client Yuri Matrosov and other investors, who studied the scheme of its work in detail, told Izvestia that specially trained people – drops – helped the management to attract potential investors into the business. They, investors believe, come from other similar projects. Drops contacted people in messengers and social networks and, using the example of their own success, convinced them to make a contribution.
According to fund client Nikolai Spirin, before stopping payments, Vitaly Pavlov, along with his wife and companions, went on vacation to the Maldives.
“Although at that time there was no money to pay investors and the fund was doing poorly,” the man noted.
There is no instrument in the economy that can guarantee a return higher than the bank interest rate, trader Nikolai Solabuto shared his opinion with Izvestia.
— “Prosperity” has a good sign, but in fact, in my opinion, it is an ordinary Ponzi pyramid (Charles Ponzi is an Italian “pyramid builder”, founder of the “Ponzi scheme.” – Izvestia). In it, old investors receive income from the investments of new investors, the expert believes.
In such schemes, the first deposits are made, as a rule, to affiliated persons – relatives and acquaintances of the founders of the project, who subsequently make a profit at the expense of new investors. From the point of view of the law, this is considered illegal enrichment, the expert noted.
“Then the founders of the pyramid run away, and people are left without money. This scheme has been known since the time of Mavrodi, who promised his investors 17% per day and also said that he invested money in shares of various companies, the trader recalled.
The cryptocurrency market is similar to the stock market and the stock market. The price of one unit of cryptocurrency depends on objective events in the world, including in the field of electronics and components, member of the Russian Lawyers Association Tatyana Zavyalova told Izvestia.
— Now the cryptocurrency is in a calm state without price jumps, so it’s difficult to earn such interest as Blagopoluchie promised. Real can be called from 2 to 8% per year,” the expert said.
Investors do not know where the founders of the fund are now. According to one version, Vitaly Pavlov is abroad. Vitaly Sokolovsky, in their opinion, may be hiding in Russia. The leaders of the investment project occasionally get in touch, promising to pay off their clients.
On November 17, 2022, investigators opened a criminal case against unidentified persons. These persons stole someone else’s property under the pretext of a loan, it follows from the case materials.
Izvestia sent a request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to find out why the defendants in the case have not been identified and what role investment agreements play in identifying them. These documents contain the names and signatures of all participants in the investment process, including the managers of the Blagopoluchie fund.
Tired of waiting for the results of the investigation, on March 2, investors gathered at the fund’s office on Pyatnitskaya Street in Moscow demanding that their money be returned to them, an Izvestia correspondent who visited the scene of the events was convinced. But they came across closed doors and called the police, after which they wrote a collective statement. To achieve justice, they are ready to go to the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin.
The legislation is not adapted to protect the rights and interests of investors in the digital space, therefore it is extremely difficult to ensure the security of their finances in this area. The investigation can track down the culprits, but with great difficulty, and this complicates the full progress of the criminal case, explained lawyer Tatyana Zavyalova.
A criminal case is initiated against unidentified persons when the investigation does not have enough evidence to charge specific people. But this could happen as soon as evidence is found, she said.