By Jonathan Stempel and Dietrich Knauth
NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York Attorney General Letitia James on Friday expanded her lawsuit against Digital Currency Group and other cryptocurrency defendants, tripling the size of their alleged fraud scheme to more than $3 billion.
James had in October sued DCG, its Genesis Global Capital unit, and Gemini Trust, the exchange run by twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
She claimed they caused more than $1 billion of losses by misleading investors about the Gemini Earn program, which let customers lend crypto assets to Genesis in exchange for a high rate of return.
The attorney general said it had become clear as more investors came forward that "the scam perpetrated by DCG through Genesis" also ensnared investors who sent money directly to Genesis and were falsely assured their money was safe.
Many of the additional investors were retail customers, including a chiropractor and a stay-at-home father who each invested $2 million of bitcoin with Genesis, the complaint said.
James is seeking more than $3 billion of restitution for the more than 230,000 investors who she believes were defrauded.
"This illegal cryptocurrency scheme, and the horrific financial losses that real people have suffered, are yet another reminder of why stronger cryptocurrency regulations are needed to protect all investors," James said in a statement.
DCG said Friday that James' lawsuit was "baseless" and that it expects to win in court.
"DCG has always conducted its business lawfully and with integrity, and DCG and Barry Silbert will be fully vindicated," it said in a statement.
Genesis is shutting down after filing for bankruptcy in January 2023.
Late Thursday, it reached a settlement with James' office, agreeing to pay on her fraud claims so long as it fully repays customers through the Chapter 11 process. That settlement requires a bankruptcy judge's approval.
Representatives for DCG and Gemini did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Barry Silbert, who is DCG's chief executive, and Soichiro Moro, a former Genesis chief executive, are also defendants.
Genesis filed for bankruptcy two months after halting withdrawals by Gemini Earn customers following the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX cryptocurrency exchange.
Both Genesis and Gemini were also sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which said they bypassed disclosure requirements meant to protect Gemini Earn customers.
Last week, Genesis agreed to pay the SEC a $21 million fine, also contingent on its repaying customers first.
Gemini, meanwhile, has sued DCG over their failure of their crypto lending partnership.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Dietrich Knauth in New York; Editing by Mark Porter, David Gregorio and David Ljunggren)