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Cryptocurrency ATM owner, others indicted for enabling profitable scams

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley at lectern
Matthew Richmond
/
Ideastream Public Media
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, at the lectern, along with Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Rogalski, left, and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Blaine Forschen, announce indictments against Bitcoin of America on March 2, 2023.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office has indicted a cryptocurrency ATM company, its founder and two others, saying the company profited off of scammers who convinced people to deposit millions into its machines.

Illinois-based S and P Solutions owns and operates Bitcoin of America ATM kiosks, which exchange cryptocurrency for cash deposited into the machines. The machines were placed in gas stations, convenience stores and other businesses across Northeast Ohio.

The company’s founder, Sonny Meraban, was arrested Wednesday in Miami Beach. His father, Reza Mehraban, and an attorney working for the company, William Suriano, were arrested near Chicago.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley said at a press conference announcing the indictments Thursday that 52 of the company's cryptocurrency kiosks were seized in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties.

“All of these warrants were executed yesterday, there was over 100 law enforcement officers involved and it was a very complex operation,” O’Malley said.

The three men are charged with 59 counts in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court, including conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, operating the kiosks without a license, tampering with records and money laundering.

According to investigators, Bitcoin of America ATM machines were preferred by scammers who would call victims and convince them to deposit money into the machines. When the victims deposited cash, 20% went to Meraban’s company.

Law enforcement officials said the scammers sent their victims to Bitcoin of America machines because they did not follow safeguards meant to prevent these kind of fraudulent transactions.

According to an indictment filed in Cuyahoga County on February 22 and unsealed Wednesday, Meraban is connected to illegal transactions involving 13 individuals in Cuyahoga County between 2020 and 2023.

O’Malley said Thursday there are likely more victims.

Meraban founded the company in 2015 after selling supplements online and, according to a 2021 article, has placed machines in 25 states.

The prosecutor’s office is seeking to bring the three men to Cuyahoga County for a March 22 court appearance. The indictment also calls for the seizure of bank accounts, several Mercedes-Benz’s, a Lamborghini, real estate and a speed boat purchased with the proceeds of the transactions.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media who focuses on criminal justice.