The Times of Israel recently received an email with the subject line “I WILL KILL MYSELF.” The writer, 49-year-old Canadian Brian Roxborough, said he had lost his life’s savings, over CAD 170,000 ($134,000), to a binary options company called Magnum Options, a now-shuttered brand which is understood to have operated from the Tel Aviv area.
The Times of Israel has also been contacted by man who lost tens of thousands of euros to another such company called Tradeo, who is also threatening to take his own life.
These threats come a year after father of four Fred Turbide took his own life after being fleeced by an Israeli-run binary options firm. His death, and the testimony arranged by The Times of Israel by his family to a Knesset committee session, played a part in the process that led the Israeli parliament to finally ban the entire binary options industry in October — a ban that comes into effect next month.
In both of the current cases, the men despair of recovering their money and have not been able to identify the ultimate beneficiary owners of the bank accounts where their money ended up. Both men asked The Times of Israel to appeal to the public to help them.
Since The Times of Israel began exposing the fraudulent industry, which has fleeced billions from victims around the world for a decade, we have received a steady stream of emails from victims begging for help, detailing how their lives have been ruined and asking for information about the companies that took their money. The Times of Israel is unaware of any significant effort by Israeli law enforcement to seek the return of any of the stolen billions, and no Israeli has been convicted here to date for binary options fraud. Binary options fraudsters offer the promise of lucrative returns on short-term investments, but in fact employ various ruses — including misrepresentation, manipulation of trading platforms, and refusal to pay out — to fleece their victims.
The Times of Israel has been told by multiple sources that, since the passage of the law outlawing the entire industry, many binary options firms have begun moving their operations abroad. Former operatives and firms, we have been told, have also begun attempting related scams involving cryptocurrencies.
As we reported on December 4, Israel’s job boards for foreign language speakers, which became nearly bereft of binary options ads over the summer, are once again filled with jobs for “money hungry” sales people to come work in call centers that offer “the highest bonuses.” “Experience in binary options an advantage!” some of these ads declare, undeterred — and evidently believing applicants will be undeterred — by the fact that this entire field is now illegal.
Roxborough’s email plea for help, written in capital letters, alleged: “The Israel government has allowed unregulated binary options companies to operate in Israel. The unregulated binary options companies are scamming people around the world and Israel is making a lot of money from fraud created by the binary option companies. My wife and I lost our life savings last month when Magnum Options shut down their email and web site and stole our money.”
When Magnum Options shut down, Roxborough said, he had 220,000 Canadian dollars in his account, of which 170,000 was money he deposited and 50,000 was “profits” he had made trading. A retired truck driver, he said he does not know where to turn to get his money back. He said an Israeli lawyer told him that now that many of the companies have shut down, they will not respond to a demand letter, and that victims will have to track down the actual owners and sue them.
Roxborough said he needs to know the real identities of his account managers, “Olivia Williams,” “Thomas Rogen” and “Aaron Phillips,” who, he says, lured him to deposit his life’s savings in their hands with false promises of high returns.
After receiving Roxborough’s email in October, The Times of Israel reported it to the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Manitoba Securities Commission and the Israel Police.
The Canadian government contacted the police in the Philippines, where Roxborough retired recently, and several Filipino police showed up at his home to make sure he had not carried out his threat, then sent a photo of him back to the Canadians.
The Israeli police called The Times of Israel several weeks after we reported the incident asking if we had Roxborough’s contact information. Roxborough subsequently said he had not heard from the Israeli police.
He did get an email from the Prime Minister’s Office, to whom he had also written, saying that the Israeli government could not help him regarding money he entrusted to a private company.
On October 18, the British government wound up two companies that were being used to operate MagnumOptions.com and MagnumOptions.eu. These were Hampshire Capital Ventures Limited (Hampshire Capital), and its successor, Solaris Vision Ltd, a Bulgarian-registered company,
According to a press release issued by the UK Insolvency Service, 41 complaints were made to British police against Magnum Options in the period February 2016 to March 2017. The press release made for damming reading about Magnum Options’s trading practices.
“The websites made numerous claims as to possible investment returns, with an 81% return rate per trade used as a headline throughout the websites,” the press release specified. “The investigation into both companies found that they had attracted customers through viral internet marketing, offering guaranteed fixed returns as set out throughout the above websites. Customers were not made aware of terms and conditions at the point of sale. Those terms and conditions were deemed to be onerous and unfair on customers, requiring them to trade 30 or 40 times their account balances in order to make withdrawals.
“Even when some customers did do so, no pay-outs were made,” the British authority said. “Customers who sought withdrawals or repayments of their deposits were mainly met with silence from the companies, who were only contactable by email after the time customers signed up for trading.”
The Insolvency Service also said that Magnum Options made unauthorized withdrawals from customers’ credit cards, and pretended to be operating from the UK when it was not.
When Roxborough contacted the Insolvency Service, he was told that the British government did not know how to recover his or other victims’ money.
“The individuals behind the companies have gone to extensive lengths to conceal their identities,” a senior examiner at the Insolvency Service wrote to Roxborough. “It has not yet been possible to make any contact with the companies or to recover any company records or assets. In particular, it has not yet been possible to establish the details of any bank account used by the companies. On the current information, there is no likelihood that there will be any financial distribution to the creditors.”
The UK Insolvency Service told The Times of Israel it would heartily welcome any information the public can provide about the owners and bank accounts behind Magnum Options.
Several former employees and other sources told The Times of Israel that Magnum Options was one of several binary options brands operated by a firm called Rushmore Marketing in Tel Aviv. The other brands included Traderush, Boss Capital and 10Trade. The owner of Rushmore Marketing, according to Israel’s corporate registry, is Jonathan Siennicki of Kfar Shmaryahu. In the Panama Papers, all three brands are described as being owned by Iuliia Vasylchuk of Netanya, a Ukrainian immigrant to Israel.
Before getting involved in binary options. Rushmore Marketing operated several online casinos, registered under the Cypriot company Isagro Holdings.
Isagro Holdings Ltd. was founded in 2006 by two other Cypriot companies, Paramac Ltd and Plenexus Ltd., according to the Cypriot corporate registry. According to numerous articles in the Romanian media, Paramac is owned by a Romanian man named Lucian Badescu and Plenexus is owned by Silviu Bogdan Mihalcea-Calinescu, both of whom were involved in an alleged corruption scheme whereby they bought undervalued energy from the Romanian government and sold it back to the Romanian government for a premium, a feat that was accomplished as a result of their friendly relations with senior Romanian politicians.
By mid-2007, all shares in Isagro Holdings had been transferred to two Israeli men, Naphtali Goldman and Jonathan Siennicki. Goldman was arrested by Israeli police in 2009 for operating an online casino that allegedly targeted Israelis. Goldman’s alleged business partner was Asi Vaknin, a reputed Israeli underworld figure who became a police witness against the Abergil crime family. Goldman was eventually cleared of charges, according a press release he published himself. The Times of Israel was unable to independently verify the outcome of the case as the court files are “classified” and not available to the public. In November 2007, Siennicki became the sole shareholder of Isagro Holdings. He is also the sole shareholder of Rushmore Marketing.
The Times of Israel reached out to Siennicki for a response to this article but received no reply.
The bank account that Roxborough wired money to was in the name of a Hong Kong company called “Valoris HK Ltd.” at Bank Pekao in Warsaw, Poland.
Curiously, an online search for this bank account reveals that it, or an account by the same name at Bank Pekao, is still actively receiving funds. The same account has been used to accept payments for TD Markets, a binary options and forex trading site, as well as QuadrigaCX, a bitcoin exchange that claims to be based in Vancouver, Canada. There is also a complaint online from a woman who was asked to send money to Valoris HK Ltd. to buy pet pharmaceuticals.
On November 24, Roxborough sent a second email to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as follows: “Hi Israeli government. You have refused to wire back my money that was stolen by Magnum Options even though I said I will kill myself. You probably think that legally you have no obligation to give my money back as I gave my money to a company and you have no legal obligation to return my money to me. However, your government must have a moral obligation to help me.
I am not a person to Israel. I am only a non-human target to scam money from with no feelings
“My feeling is Israel will do nothing,” he went on. “Israel likes binary options companies scamming people all over the world. I am not a person to Israel. I am only a non-human target to scam money from with no feelings.”
When asked how it had responded to Roxborough’s emails, the PMO said in a statement that “the government advanced legislation that entirely prohibits the sale of binary options from Israel. The law was approved about a month ago and will go into effect in about two months.”
A spokeswoman for the Israel Securities Authority said the ISA would be happy to help the British government track down the owners of Magnum Options but would have to receive an official request from the UK Financial Services Authority.
The Israeli police did not respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment.