Founders of Fresno tech company charged in $100 million fraud scheme

The founders of a failed California technology company were indicted by federal authorities Thursday for their role in a $100 million fraud scheme in which they financed their lavish lifestyles and high salaries.

Irma Olguin, Jr. and Jake Soberal, who ran Fresno-based startup Bitwise Industries, turned themselves in to authorities on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and took millions of dollars from various companies and individuals, the U.S. attorney for the case said. Eastern District of California. Announced.

The couple allegedly created a web of lies and fabricated documents to create the illusion that the private technology company was succeeding.

They are accused of fabricating bank statements, lying to investors, providing false financial information to their board of directors, falsifying documents and using buildings Bitwise no longer owns as collateral for loans, “all while lining their pockets,” the federal prosecutor said. . Philip Talbert he said in a press release.

Olguín and Soberal allegedly agreed to begin their complicated series of lies in January 2022, 16 months before Bitwise abruptly collapsed, despite recent reports the company was worth more than $500,000,000 and was financially sound.

The duo allegedly falsified their financial records to obtain investments, loans and other funds, which they put toward Bitwise’s payroll and fringe benefits, outfitting the company’s office spaces, and repaying debts to previous lenders.

Irma Olguin, Jr. and Jake Soberal allegedly agreed to fake the success of Bitwise Industries to obtain funding from investors.
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They were also responsible for covering their own annual salaries of $600,000, investigators said.

When the plan finally came to light in May 2023, the company’s 900 employees and trainees were immediately suspended and subsequently fired.

Olguín and Soberal were fired by the company’s board of directors and Bitwise filed for bankruptcy the following month.

Bitwise sign.
Bitwise Industries abruptly collapsed in May 2023, leaving 900 employees out of work.
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“These types of white-collar crimes often stem from greed and mismanagement and leave hard-working, tax-paying citizens hurt,” said Mark Silva, IRS Acting Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Field Office. Oakland, in a statement. .

The couple admitted to carrying out the scheme but pleaded not guilty in a Fresno court on Thursday.

They claimed they did so in a genuine effort to resurrect the dying business.

“Jake and Irma have taken full responsibility for the mistakes they made in trying to preserve Bitwise. “Their sincere desire not to see Bitwise fail led them to make numerous serious and consequential errors in judgment,” Soberal and Olguín’s attorneys said in a statement.

Both agreed to a ban preventing them from serving as officers or directors of public companies, as well as other sanctions, the SEC said.

If convicted, the two face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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