An Instagram personality known for giving out cash to strangers in New York pleaded guilty Wednesday to running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme and Bitcoin scam.
Jebara Igbara, who amassed nearly a million followers as Jay Mazini, entered his guilty plea in Brooklyn Federal Court and could face a possible 10-year prison sentence as part of his plea agreement.
Igbara, 27, built up his clout online by posting videos that showed him handing out cash to people waiting on line at grocery stores, working at a fast-food restaurant in Queens, and to a woman he met at an airport who lost her purse, according to a criminal complaint.
“By posting such videos, Igbara created a public persona of himself as a person of substantial means,” the complaint reads.
Igbara admitted to using his company, Halal Capital, to run a Ponzi scheme between 2019 and 2021, taking cash from clients but never investing their money. Instead, he paid for his personal expenses, and used the money to fuel his Bitcoin scam
In that scheme, he offered to buy Bitcoin, which surged in value in 2021, for above market value, promising to wire his followers government-backed money in exchange for the cryptocurrency.
Between January and March 2021, Igbara offered to pay his followers $52,000 for one Bitcoin, which at the time had a market value of around $47,000. But Igbara never fully paid the Bitcoin sellers he found on Instagram — and sent them fake wire transfers, investigators found.
“While I did receive Bitcoin, I did not pay for it,” Igbara said in a prepared statement to Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo Wednesday morning.
He agreed to pay one of his followers $2.56 million for 50 Bitcoins — but the seller never got more than $500,000 from him.
He used some of the money from the Halal investors to partially pay off his victims in the Bitcoin scheme, and used the proceeds of his Bitcoin scheme to keep his Halal investors at bay.
“Unfortunately, I’m a human being at the end of the day,” Igbara told the judge. “I have a conscience. … So regarding the Halal Capital scheme, I was taking the fund and paying off, it was just from A to B.”
Igbara pleaded guilty to wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering. Under the terms of his sentencing agreement, Igbara will likely face about eight to 10 years in prison, though his top charge carries maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.
He’s also agreed to forfeit more than $10 million in property before he’s sentenced, and pay another $5 million in restitution and $500,000 in fines.
“You’ll be required to pay the full amount of each victim’s losses,” Kuo said.
There is more, unrelated prison time in Igbara’s future.
The Edgewater, N.J., resident pleaded guilty in March to kidnapping in New Jersey in exchange for a five-year prison sentence, in a plot to beat a social media rival and threatening him with a machete, according to NorthJersey.com.
Court filings in New Jersey describe the details of the kidnapping. On March 15, 2021, Igbara reached out to an online critic, who accused him of running scams, and asked the man to “go for coffee to talk it out.”
After the victim got into Igbara’s Range Rover, he found himself surrounded by the influencer and two others. He tried to flee, but was chased, beaten, stripped naked, threatened with a machete and ordered to remove his negative social media comments, or video of the encounter would be posted online.
His federal prison sentence will run concurrently with the time he serves in New Jersey.
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