“A friend from Mallorca told me about JuicyFields in February 2021,” recalls David Martinez, a 35-year-old from Valencia, in eastern Spain. At the time, Martinez had just lost €2,000 in the QubitLife cryptocurrency scam, and he was reluctant to invest more money in seemingly promising projects. But he invested €300 in JuicyFields. Just 108 days later, he received €450. JuicyFields was a company in the cannabis sector. Its investors bought “plants,” the company said, and at the end of the term they collected incredible profits from their harvest, about 50% of their investment. JuicyFields was supposedly a system to collectively microfinance cannabis plantations.
Martinez invested another €2,000. “We all cashed in again,” he remembers. The trap was set, and over the course of the year the Valencian saw things that further convinced him: the company was featured on a Mexican CNN program when it participated in that country’s cannabis fair; it opened an office in Valencia’s Town Hall square; Martínez came across a truck with the company’s logo on the highway near Alicante; and he saw them display two Lamborghinis at a big fair in Barcelona as well.
With all this in mind, in January 2022 Martinez went all in and invested €18,000. “You are stressed out all the time,” he says. But in April, he received a return on his investment of €27,000. Bingo! Could it really be that easy to make money? “A group of investors from Valencia’s Polytechnic University had invested, a lot of people had done it, and it gave the whole thing a little more gravitas,” he explains.
But despite the investment’s gradual success, Martínez still didn’t quite believe it. Then, in the spring, videos began to appear on YouTube that talked about a possible pyramid scheme. Still, the temptation of easy money remained. He invested another €5,500.
He would never see that money again. JuicyFields’ promise began to fade on July 11 when an email written in strange Spanish announced an employee strike. The email said, “All members are asked to not promote or advertise JuicyFields anymore in any way.” It went on to say that “[o]ur organization is very strong, and it is time for the legal and cultivation departments to demonstrate their strength.” Thousands of “e-cultivators” (as the company called investors) got a bad feeling. “It was a surprise, I had a week left to go before getting paid,” says Martinez. He lost that €5,500, but still came out ahead when taking all his JuicyFields trades into account. But he had shared his success story with friends, and some had invested €14,000 in the latest round of investments. “All told, we lost €50,000 between us,” he estimates.
Several law firms immediately began filing class action lawsuits. EL PAÍS has seen the figures that the two law firms are handling. Both are flooded with messages. “About 6,000 people have contacted us by email,” estimates the lawyer Emilia Zaballos. “I have six people opening emails and there are still 5,300 that haven’t been read yet,” she adds. There are already some 700 people participating in the lawsuit she is filing. The Martínez-Blanco law firm’s lawsuit currently involves more than 1,400 people. And these are not the only law firms that are working on this case.
Both lawyers suggest that the scam has affected many more people and that the amount of money lost probably exceeds €10 million. According to company data, Spain had the second most investors behind Germany and ahead of France and Portugal. There are unconfirmed reports of couples who invested the maximum amount of €180,000.
“It is one of the most incredible cases I have ever seen,” Zaballos says. “People buying plants and investing all of their savings without getting properly informed first is one of the craziest stories I’ve ever heard in my 34 years of practice. Of all the big scams, this one really amazes me,” she says.
Emilio Collazo, of the Crypto Era YouTube channel, has been investigating the case for several weeks; he has two friends who lost €90,000. “The day the strike email arrived, they shut down money withdrawals,” he explains. “Then I started looking at the cryptocurrency record. I saw that there was only cash coming in, but I also found two or three instances of cash going out. That really set off alarm bells for me,” he recalls.
Collazo found a total of “hundreds of millions spread over seven or eight wallets [portfolios].” He also notes that there was something strange about the transactions: “They used a technique meant to confuse people like me who [actually] look. It is a method in which thousands of small transactions are done to cover up money withdrawals. I am certain that someone withdrew money when it could not be withdrawn. The techniques are those that a criminal uses to throw people off their scent,” he says. In this week’s latest video, Collazo spoke with JuicyFields’s former CEO, a shady character named Alan Glanse, who says he now lives in Portugal and was paid €10,000 a month. Apparently, Glanse encouraged his family and friends to invest hundreds of thousands of euros in the company; they lost that money too. Glanse also confirmed that he will cooperate with the authorities. “He gave the impression of someone who wants to make it seem like he has no knowledge of the situation, who is not very aware, but actually has information that could be the key to solving the case,” Collazo opined.
What is a pyramid scheme?
A pyramid scheme relies on using the money that comes in from new investors to pay the older ones. As long as there is fresh money, the scheme can grow. According to David Martinez, one of JuicyFields’s hypothetical advantages was that it did not require investors to bring in new dupes. The incredible financial results of investing in the company seemed to offer enough inducement
The problem with these alleged scams is that investors can still come out ahead if they withdraw the money in a timely fashion, as happened in Martinez’s case. But in the spring, several YouTube channels were already warning that this company seemed like a scam. Mere months earlier, articles had appeared in the international press and the Spanish media about this cannabis investment system’s apparent benefits. It is not easy to resist the trap.
In order to recover the money, or at least some of it, time is of the essence. It is crucial to act quickly to block the alleged offenders’ accounts right away. The company has accounts in Cyprus and Estonia, at least. “It’s going to be a difficult road, I don’t want to make it seem like it will be easy,” lawyer Norberto Martinez Blanco warns. “It is a two-fold challenge: the speed of legal action and blocking accounts as soon as possible,” he explains.
The company originated in Germany, but later it moved to the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to Deutsche Welle, which mentions a story circulating on the internet that claims Russian citizens own the company. In his interview with Collazo, Glanse confirmed that Russians led the company, though he does not attach much importance to that fact, because “Spaniards can also belong to the mafia.” Spain’s National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) added JuicyFields to a very long list of companies that “do not have any authorization and are not registered with the CNMV for the purpose of carrying out any type of fundraising activity or providing any service of a financial nature.” The CNMV itself added that “the list is not exhaustive and mainly derives from search and analysis of the internet and social networks.” On June 3, the German authorities banned JuicyFields from “offering capital investments in the form of opportunities.”
On July 19, the official JuicyFields account sent its last email. It was written in English, and the subject line read “Volunteers needed.” The text seemed to be a joke about the affected individuals recouping their money. The email urged customers to “[u]se the following email addresses to submit your story, speak your mind, send collateral for an emergency refund, or embark on a long road of endless conversations with our lawyers.” One of the accounts was email@example.com. It went on to say, “The guys wearing black hoods and the people running in the streets can also send their proposals indicating the amount of hashish and flowers they can sell each month to firstname.lastname@example.org. After all, it’s nice to be part of a big Italian-Russian-Colombian family.”