Stefan Qin had the world at his feet. If you didn’t know any better, the 24-year-old UNSW dropout was another Zuckerberg type on the rise, establishing the Virgil Sigma Fund back in 2017, and luring investors with a promise of 500% returns thanks to a lucrative arbitrage trading algorithm called Tenjin. This week, Stefan Qin was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling US$90 million (AU$123 million) to spend on failed cryptocurrency investments, a New York City penthouse, adult entertainment, and himself.
“Qin used that hedge fund as his own piggy bank,” explains Assistant US Attorney Daniel Tracer via sentencing memo.
“Stealing investor money to live a lavish lifestyle, and repeatedly lying to investors about what he was doing with their money.”
“Virgil had a stated market strategy of “market neutral” safe investments,” adds US Attorney Audrey Strauss.
“Qin’s investors soon discovered that his strategies weren’t much more than a disguised means for him to embezzle and make unauthorised investments with client funds.”
Federal prosecutors revealed over 100 were defrauded. When the scheme started to go south, Qin added Ponzi scheme to his rap sheet by draining the assets of his second crypto fund, VQR Multistrategy, to pay off the initial losses. His actions left investors homeless, destitute, and without their life savings.
“Mr Qin did not steal food from a grocery to feed his family,” says investor Steve Reich.
“He stole over US$90 million from ordinary people and has shown no genuine remorse.”
And just to salt the wound, Stefan Qin chose to communicate his regret using what is possibly the lamest apology in the history of apologies.
“Instead of coming clean, I did the worst thing and doubled down on my lies,” says Qin.
“I thought I was the main protagonist and life was a video game and I had just found the cheat code to beat it. As we know, life is not a video game.”
During the trial, Qin claimed to suffer from gaming and sexual addiction (read: inability to abstain from escorts) apparently stemming from a traumatic childhood to mitigate culpability. But to no avail. Which is just as well, considering how flimsy both those justifications are. If every Asian kid acted out in the same way because of some shitty parenting – present company included – suffice it to say, entire nations would be bankrupt.
“This kind of white-collar crime is just as devastating to victims as other types of crime, and it will be punished severely,” says Judge Valerie Caproni, describing Qin as a “potentially very dangerous person.” The sentence is also intended to make an example out of the Canberra native to discourage other would-be fraudsters from attempting something similar.
Stefan Qin will have plenty of time to re-tell his sob story to fellow inmates across the next seven and a half years after he checks into prison on December 15th.
Have fun, mate.