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Saturday, January 28, 2023

“We lost 50,000 euros among several friends.” The ‘incredible’ cannabis scam affects tens of thousands of Spaniards

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“A friend from Mallorca told me in February 2021,” recalls David Martínez, a 35-year-old Valencian. Martínez had just lost $2,000 in QubitLife, a cryptocurrency scam, and was reluctant to invest more money in seemingly juicy projects. But he tried JuicyFields for €300 and after 108 days they gave him €450. JuicyFields was in the cannabis business. Their investors bought “plants,” they said, and at maturity reaped the incredible profits from their harvest, about 50% of the amount invested. It was supposed to be a crowdfunding system for cannabis plantations.

Martínez bet another €2,000. “We all recharged,” he says. The hook was already cast, and between 2021 and 2022 Martínez saw details that increasingly convinced him: the company came out in one Mexican CNN program to attend a cannabis fair in that country, they opened an office in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Valencia, crashed into a truck with their logo on the highway near Alicante, and also saw them presenting two Lamborghinis at a major fair in showed Barcelona.

With all these details, Martínez went all out in January 2022: he invested 18,000 euros. “You’re on a tight ass all the time,” he says. But in April, 27,000 euros came to his account. Bingo. Could it really be that easy to make money? “There was a group of investors from the Polytechnic University of Valencia who had invested, a lot of people had done it, there was a bit more truth,” he explains. But despite that consensus and continued success, Martínez still didn’t fully believe in it. It started in the spring Post videos on YouTube about possible pyramid schemes. But the easy money hook was still there. And he saved 5,500 euros.

But he would never collect the rent and he would never see the money again. The promise began to fade on July 11, when an email in odd Spanish announced a staff strike: “All members are requested to stop promoting or promoting JuicyFields in any way,” the email read, and then : “Our unit is very strong, and it’s time for the legal and cultivation departments to show their strength.” The thousands of “E-cultivators” (as they were called) had a bad body. “It was a surprise, I still had a week to collect,” says Martínez. He lost that $5,500, so when he adds up all of his operations in JuicyFields, he still comes out on top. But he had shared his success with friends, and some had invested 14,000 in the last round, which he lost. “All together we lost 50,000 euros,” he says.

Several law firms immediately initiated a collective complaints procedure. EL PAÍS consulted the figures managed by two offices. Both are overflowing with messages. “Nearly 6,000 people contacted us via email,” says lawyer Emilia Zaballos. “I have six people opening them and we have 5,300 unopened,” he adds. In his complaint there are already about 700 people. At Martínez Blanco’s office, they currently have a trial involving more than 1,400 people. They’re not the only two law firms working on this case.

Both lawyers suggest that there are many more people and that the amounts lost exceed at least 10 million euros and probably much more. According to the company, Spain was the country with the most investors after Germany and ahead of France and Portugal. There are unconfirmed stories of couples who have invested the maximum amount of 180,000 euros.

“This is one of the most incredible cases I’ve ever seen,” says Zaballos. “People buying plants and investing all their savings without doing any research is one of the craziest stories I’ve seen in 34 years of practice. It’s one of the big scams that surprises me the most,” he adds.

Emilio Collazo, Youtuber He has been investigating the case for several weeks on The Crypto Era channel, especially since he has two friends who lost 90,000 euros. “The day the picket arrived, they turned off the tap to withdraw money,” he says. “Then I look at the cryptocurrency register and I see that there are only money inflows, but I also find two or three outflows. That sets off all my alarms,” he adds.

Collazo finds “hundreds of millions spread across seven or eight portfolios” in total. He also observes that there’s something odd about the movements: “They used a technique to confuse people who look like me. It is a method used to perform thousands of small operations to hide money withdrawals. I’m sure someone withdrew money when it wasn’t possible. The techniques are those of a criminal to make them lose track,” he adds.

In his last video this week Collazo managed to speak with the former CEO of JuicyFields, an obscure figure named Alan Glanse, who says he now lives in Portugal and is being paid €10,000 a month. Glanse apparently got his family and friends to invest hundreds of thousands of euros in the company, which they also lost. He also says he will work with the authorities. “He gave me the impression of someone who wants to appear unaware of the situation and not very aware, but he has information that could be key to solving the case,” says Collazo.

What is a pyramid scheme

A pyramid scheme consists in using the money that comes from the new investors to pay the old ones. As long as there is fresh money, it can grow. According to David Martínez, one of JuicyFields’ hypothetical advantages is that it didn’t insist investors bring in new suckers. Although the incredible financial benefits it offered seemed entitlement enough.

The problem with these alleged scams is that in the case of Martínez, for example, you can win with a timely payout. However, as early as the spring, several YouTube channels warned that this looked more like a scam. Months earlier, articles had appeared in the international press also in media Spaniards, on the obvious benefits of this cannabis investment system. It is not always easy to resist the trap.

In order to recover the money or part of it, the main objective is to quickly block the suspected criminals’ accounts. They have at least accounts in Cyprus and Estonia. “The path is difficult, I don’t want to make it easy for him,” says lawyer Norberto Martínez-Blanco. “It’s a double challenge: the speed of justice and the fastest possible blockade,” he adds.

The company is originally German but later moved to the Netherlands and Switzerland, According to Deutsche Welle citing a story running on the internet in which final ownership is assigned to Russian citizens. In an interview with Collazo, Glanse confirmed that there were Russians at the top of the company, although he attaches little importance to this because “the Spaniards can also be Mafiosi”.

The National Securities Market Commission added JuicyFields to a very long list from companies that “do not have any type of authorization or are registered for any purpose with the CNMV and that could carry out any type of fundraising activity or provide a service of a financial nature”. The CNMV itself added that “the list is not exhaustive and comes mainly from search and analysis exercises on the internet and networks”. On June 3rd German authorities banned JuicyFields “provide investments in the form of opportunities.”

The last email from the official JuicyFields account was on July 19th in English with the subject: “Volunteers Needed”. The text seemed like a joke so that those affected could get their money back. It ended: “Use the following email addresses to submit your story, speak your mind out loud, send guarantees for an emergency refund, or embark on a long journey of endless conversations with our attorneys.” One of the accounts was threats@juicyholdings.com, and continued, “Also, the black hooded boys and those walking down the street can send their suggestions to mafia@ with the amounts of hash or flowers they can sell monthly. juicyholdings .com After all, it’s nice to be part of a big Italian-Russian-Colombian family.”

If you have more information about this or similar cases, you can write to jordipc@elpais.es

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Source elpais.com

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