A former attorney pled guilty in Manhattan federal court on Friday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of a scheme to defraud investors who thought they were investing in bitcoin.
Philip Reichenthal, together with co-conspirator Randy Craig Levine and several associates, persuaded victims to send him millions of dollars, saying he would act as an escrow agent to purchase bitcoin for them. But neither Reichenthal nor his associates ever provided any bitcoin to the investors nor refunded their money.
Reichenthal was arrested on Sept. 14, 2020, for the crime. The 78-year-old Reichenthal, who was disbarred in October 2019 in a Florida court, faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison. Extradition proceedings against Levine, who’s been on the run from U.S. authorities since 2005, are pending.
According to the charges, Reichenthal and Levine engaged in two fraudulent schemes. In the first one, in 2018, Levine induced a man to wire over $3 million to Reichenthal from an over-the-counter crypto broker to fund the purchase of bitcoin, which was never made. In the second, in 2019, Levine persuaded a Florida man to send over $2 million to Reichenthal for buying bitcoin, which he also never purchased.
The prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, said “as a licensed attorney and escrow agent, Philip Reichenthal was entrusted to keep investors’ money safe. But as he admitted today, he betrayed that trust by siphoning millions of dollars of investor money.”