“They have kidnapped our children,” says one of the mothers who for a couple of months has seen her daughter transform into another person. “They have turned him inside out like a sock,” she repeats. But she warns that she does not intend to stop. Neither she nor another forty families united through RedUne, a sectarian prevention association. They are on the warpath against IM Academy, an academy investigated by the police for fraud, which supposedly teaches how to invest in cryptocurrencies. In an event held last weekend in Badalona, the company, nicknamed the cryptosect, brought together more than 9,000 young people from all over Europe. A true mass phenomenon among youth, with headquarters in New York. They believe they have found the magic formula to be rich without working; their parents see how they lose their children, whom they “brainwash” and turn into commercials for the company.
The story always begins with the courses that IM Academy offers on-line. “We didn’t see anything wrong with him doing it,” recalls Raquel, 53, regretting having paid her daughter for it. She, like the rest of the mothers in this report, speaks with a fictitious name to preserve what remains of her relationship with her. In two months, she left her studies, and was only dedicated to “personal development”: tasks of “recruitment and consolidation within the sect”, defines Raquel.
IM Academy courses cost 150 euros per month. But if each student recruits two people, the training is free. From three, start earning money and climb the ranks of the organization: with three clients you become Platinum 150; with 12, Platinum 600 (you enter 600 dollars) and so on until you reach the top, that of chairman, with 30,000 subscribers. It is a “pyramidal sales practice”, according to the complaint that several families presented to the National Police and that culminated on March 23 with the arrest of eight people, who are on provisional release. This newspaper has unsuccessfully tried to contact IM Academy to find out its version.
“You’re going to get rich. Your parents won’t understand, nor will your friends. You are a visionary who is with today’s times ”, reproduces Raquel, about the mantras that her daughter repeated. She “she became another person”. The day her parents refused to continue paying for her courses, she “took the backpack, she left and to this day,” her mother lamented. She “she has forgotten her family, her group of friends… I don’t even know where she lives. And now I am her enemy because I don’t understand her and I don’t support her.”
Another common element is speed. Ángela’s 18-year-old son began to be interested and he was hooked “24 hours a day” on nothing. “He has changed his way of speaking, of looking…”, he regrets, by phone. She has managed to maintain a good relationship with him, to keep up, but she is desperate. “The psychologist tells me that I cannot criticize the group,” she explains, about the assistance she has received since she joined the RedUNE support group, the sectarianism and abuse of weakness prevention network. He ”he gets up, goes to the computer and when he goes out it is to attract new people”. Ángela is “tired, exhausted and pissed off” to see how her son has ended up “in a monetary sect”. He too has dropped out of school.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
All have also developed “dialectical skills” that surpass their mothers. “They teach them what to say to each thing,” says Encarna, 58, with a 20-year-old son at IM Academy. He has gone from being “a normal guy, who took out his notes” to dropping out of school. “He says that’s an outdated paradigm,” she explains. And he is dedicated to “opening people’s eyes” and “digital empowerment”. “They are young, smiling and give you classes on how to live life,” says Encarna. “They don’t teach trading, they teach them abduction”, she affirms, fed up with the “verbiage” of her son, and that he gives “everyone the ember” to capture them. She is reaching the limit. “My son is left over, you can’t bring up the subject.” And she fears that if she “pulls her arm,” she’ll lose.
Marta’s 19-year-old son dropped out of IM Academy three months ago, but he bears a grudge against his mother for it. In the half year that he was in the group, he did weird things, like writing a diary with phrases like “I’m 500 Platinum, I’m successful, I have my cars”. Everything is based on “visualization”. He, like the others, left the higher grade. He has never been the same again. “He has not been vaccinated. He believes that everything is a setup, even the war in Ukraine, ”laments his mother. He follows “weird groups” and makes “survival” purchases like matches or flashlights. “He has become obsessive,” he summarizes, and has “disconnected from his family.” Marta even doubts that, despite working and not having time, he has not returned to IM Academy. The problem, the woman repeats, is not that they lose money, it is “brainwashing” and that they are “against their parents.”
Marc, in his twenties, has participated in IM Academy talks. But he didn’t quite see it clearly. “95% are talk of a movie with a happy ending, not of trading“, bill. He, unlike his brother, hooked on the cryptosect, is clear: “Why am I going in there? For a fool to tell me that I have a poor mentality? No thanks”.
“Signs”: this is how the alleged scam works
The judicial investigation into the activities of IM Academy in Spain focuses on allegedly fraudulent investment operations with cryptocurrencies. training courses on-line and its pyramidal structure are just the structure that supports everything else. The key to the network is what is known in the jargon of the academy as “signals”: investment orders in certain products that the leadership sends to the intermediate cadres and these, in turn, transmit to the victims. On March 23, after a year of investigation, the Police arrested eight people for an alleged scam that may affect more than 2,000 young people, some of them minors. Albert F., Iván B., Cristian A. and José Francisco T. are some of those investigated by the Court of Instruction number 41 of Madrid. The initial complaint, on behalf of the victims, accuses them of fraud, misleading advertising, psychological coercion, criminal organization, and crimes against public finances and against Social Security.
Those investigated were able to attend the massive event in Badalona, which attracted thousands of young people. All of them defend the benefits of IM Academy and believe that it is their path to “financial freedom”. The whistleblowers are young people who have gone through that phase, but who, having lost hope and money, have abandoned a platform that they say has elements of a cult. The formation on-line is “null or scarce,” explains the lawyer who filed the complaint, Carlos Bardavío. The effort of the teachers goes from trading to the need for students to attract other customers. And also in which they decide to invest. Through a “referral link”, the leadership launches its “signals”, which are investment orders on certain financial products. Whether the operation goes well or goes wrong, the dome always wins by commissions. And the alleged victims become an “instrument of the scam” because they end up recommending the operation.
The “team leaders” (the Platinums) forward those links by specific applications and Telegram groups. And so they also get a piece of the cake. They earn money, but not by investing, but because others close the operations previously advised by the leaders. To convince the students, the recruiters show income statements with many zeros. According to the complaint, these documents are partial (losses are hidden), false or simple demos. The platform indicates that such operations are prohibited.