Jeremy David McAlpine, 25, of Fountain Valley, and Zachary Michael Matar, 28, of Huntington Beach, founders of cryptocurrency firm Dropil, were charged on Friday with securities fraud. McAlpine and Matar have agreed to plead guilty to the charge, according to plea agreements that also were filed on July 2, 2021.

In 2017, McAlpine and Matar founded Dropil Inc., a Belize-based company operating out of Fountain Valley. Dropil provided and managed investments in digital assets such as cryptocurrency. The defendants primarily were responsible for the development of Dropil’s digital asset, called DROP tokens, as well as its digital asset trading program, an automated trading bot called “Dex.” Purchasers of DROPs had access to Dex, which could only be used with DROP tokens.

Neither McAlpine, Matar nor Dropil was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a broker or dealer.

McAlpine and Matar induced investors to purchase DROPs by making false claims about the functionality and profitability of Dex, which was said to provide an “expertly managed portfolio balancing algorithm [that] manages risk,” according to information published on Dropil’s website. The DROP tokens were said to “ensure privacy while also offering added value and exclusivity.” Dropil further promised that Dex’s trading would generate profits that would be distributed as additional DROP tokens every 15 days.

In January 2018, the defendants launched an initial coin offering (ICO) for the sale of DROPs, again through Dropil’s website. To induce investors to purchase DROPs, McAlpine and Matar made a series of false statements to investors in a “White Paper” published on Dropil’s website and on its Twitter account, promoting the cryptocurrency’s supposed success.

McAlpine and Matar also made false statements about the volume and dollar amount of DROPs sold both during and after the ICO, stating Dropil had successfully raised $54 million from 34,000 investors both foreign and domestic. In fact, the ICO raised less than $1.9 million from fewer than 2,500 investors.

In total, the defendants obtained approximately $1,896,657 from 2,472 investors through the sale of approximately 629 million DROPs. But McAlpine and Matar did not use at least $1.6 million of the invested money as promised, using it instead to fund disbursements to themselves and their associates.