September 29, 2023



SEC Charges Hawaii Man for Stock and Crypto Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint on Friday alleging that a Hawaii man manipulated a company’s stock price by fabricating documents and anonymously posting them online—going as far as suggesting the asset would be converted into a cryptocurrency for even larger returns.

Jeremy Koski, 45, of Kapaau, Hawaii, was charged with securities fraud for allegedly posting fake notices about the early redemption of bonds issued by retailer J.C. Penney Co., which boosted the stock price of the bonds, known as COTRP. He then allegedly created fake press releases about COTRP converting to a cryptocurrency to further inflate the stock.

According to the complaint, Koski posted the bogus redemption notices on and in May 2021 under different usernames, causing COTRP’s stock price to spike 75 percent. The notices falsely claimed on U.S. Bank letterhead that J.C. Penney bonds held in trust were being redeemed early at full value.

Months later, Koski allegedly fabricated COTRP press releases announcing the company would convert to a cryptocurrency and allow stockholders to recover the full $25 face value per share. The complaint says Koski paid to publish the fake releases through online distribution services.

The SEC alleges that Koski knew the documents were fabricated. The complaint says that during the stock price spike, he sold some of his COTRP shares for a profit. Koski reportedly owned about 7 percent of the outstanding COTRP shares.

“Mr. Koski’s alleged market manipulation scheme sought to generate interest in a thinly traded stock by creating and spreading fake documents,” said SEC Regional Director Antonia Apps of the New York office. “With his lies exposed, Koski will have to answer for his fraudulent actions.”

The SEC complaint charges Koski with violating antifraud provisions of federal securities laws. The Commission is seeking injunctions, civil monetary penalties, and a bar prohibiting Koski from participating in penny stock offerings.

Koski could not be reached for comment on the charges Friday. The SEC said its investigation was conducted with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI.

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Mural Artist Featured in Beginner’s NFT Session

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens (NFT), have a mixed reputation, but the have been embraced by many in the arts as a meaningful way to embrace digital sales and online exhibition. On August 16, a local mural artist will be featured in an in-person learning session about NFTs titled, “What the Heck Are NFTs?“

The NFT market was valued at USD20.44 billion last year, and despite the current dip in the market, is expected to continue to grow over the next several years. The learning session, continuing the “NFT for Good” event series launched in 2021, is geared towards anyone who is new to and curious about NFTs. Attendees will learn about what NFTs are, how they are used today and the potential the technology presents for creators and businesses.

The session will be led by Ellen Ng, who previously led many of the Hawaii state government’s digital asset initiatives. Today she is the founder of Inoa, a consulting firm dedicated to helping creators, businesses, nonprofits and civic organizations learn about and leverage the power of non-fungible tokens and e-commerce.

Prior to managing the state Digital Currency Innovation Lab, Ng’s global corporate experience in technology include stints with LG Electronics and Samsung. Ellen was selected by Pacific Business News as a 40 Under 40 Honoree in 2021.

The event will also feature Honolulu-born artist Jana Ireijo. She is the founder of “Mural Ethos: Vanishing Murals,” for which she uses non permanent mediums such as charcoal from wildfires and earth pigments to create “vanishing” murals that illustrate the effects of the environment due to climate change, as well as the corresponding issue of environmental justice. The murals are temporary and return to earth with the elements.

Ireijo is of Chinese, Okinawan, and Polynesian descent and graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an MFA in Painting from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Recent works include a Vanishing Coral Reef mural for The Nature Conservancy in Maui, which has also been curated by Judy Chicago into the Turner Carroll Gallery’s “Solstice: Create Art for Earth” exhibition in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The event is co-sponsored by the Oak+Pine Community and Gather Co-Working, and furthers the collective mission to onboard more women into technology, Web3 and the world of NFTs.

Ticket sales end on Aug. 14. Register via Eventbrite:

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Cryptocurrency Bills Resurface In 2023 Legislature

Three very similar legislative bills relating to digital currency have been introduced at the Hawaii State Capitol this year. The bills are clear descendants of the cryptocurrency licensing bill that failed late last session in conference committee. They are:

The bills are described as the “Special Purpose Digital Currency Licensing Act,” and intend to establish a program for the licensure, regulation, and oversight of digital currency companies as well as appropriate funds.

As of this writing, SB945 has been scheduled for its first public hearing in the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 9:30 a.m. in Hawaii State Capitol conference room 229. Testimony can be submitted up to 24 hours in advance here:

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11 Companies Continue with Hawaii State Crypto Pilot

Eleven companies will be continuing to participate in the Digital Currency Innovation Lab (DCIL) program. The new two-year term of the program commenced on July 1, 2022 and will continue until December 30, 2024.  Companies who will continue their participation include Apex Crypto, BitFlyer, BlockFi, Cloud Nalu, Coinme, ErisX, Flexa Network, Gemini, River Financial, SoFi, and UpHold.

The announcement came from the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) and the Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions (DFI), in the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, about a month after the DFI announced that the DCIL would not be shut down on June 30 as previously scheduled.

“The decision made by the majority of companies to continue their participation is a testament to the immense value of being a part of the DCIL and the ability to conduct operations in Hawaii, in a legitimate manner,” says Iris Ikeda, Commissioner of Financial Institutions.  “Through the DCIL, we will continue to study the effects and implications of digital currency transactions on Hawaii’s residents.”

In March 2020, with the launch of the DCIL, Commissioner Ikeda issued a “no action message,” meaning that no action will be taken against a company conducting what the state would consider unlicensed money transmission activity, if the company is successfully admitted into the pilot program. This will be applied to the extended DCIL program.

“We are excited to be able to continue the momentum we have created for the state over the last two years,” said Len Higashi, Acting Executive Director, HTDC.  “This will provide us with opportunities to engage more fully with existing companies and benefit from the economic growth prospects for Hawaii brought forth by the ability to be part of the crypto community.”

Liam Grist

The sentiment is shared by the only Hawaii-based company admitted into the DCIL, Cloud Nalu.

“This is a good step forward for innovation in Hawaii. It provides our company a clear pathway to continue building bitcoin software that enables Hawaii residents and businesses to efficiently and securely access bitcoin as a tool for building wealth in the long run, making payments more efficient, and upgrading our energy infrastructure,” said Liam Grist, CEO and Founder of Cloud Nalu.

“Gemini applauds the forward-leaning decision of the Hawaii DFI and HTDC to extend the Digital Currency Innovation Lab (DCIL) for an additional two years. The DCIL will allow Hawaii residents to continue to access crypto services under a sound framework and will foster economic growth and innovation. Gemini looks forward to continuing to be a leading participant in the DCIL and providing a secure crypto services platform to Hawaii residents,” said Ji Kim, Head of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Gemini.

Fellow DCIL participant Flexa is delighted by the opportunity to continue enabling Hawaii residents and businesses to execute fast and fraud-proof digital currency transactions.

“Hawaii has led the nation in exploring collaborative and robust regulatory frameworks for the digital asset industry, and we look forward to continued ecosystem growth under the DCIL to carve a path for other states to follow in the future,” shared Trevor Filter, Co-Founder of the crypto payments platform.

The DCIL will be admitting new companies when it opens its new application cycle in the third quarter of this year. For updates, visit the DCIL website at

Photo by Kanchanara on Unsplash

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Hawaii is least profitable state to mine crypto

The US is currently the world’s top bitcoin mining country around the world. And for US-based miners, a difference of a few pennies in the price of electricity per kilowatt-hour can be the difference between profit and loss.

In their latest study, 911 Metallurgist found that Hawaii is the least profitable state to mine crypto.

The cost to mine one Bitcoin in Hawaii: $54,862The cost to mine one Ethereum in Hawaii: $231The cost to mine one Dogecoin in Hawaii: $0.30

The team developed an interactive, embeddable tool that calculates profitability by state that updates automatically with the latest Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin prices and local electricity costs:

Electricity prices fluctuate heavily across the U.S., resulting in a wide array of costs associated with mining cryptocurrency. A crypto miner generating one coin of Ethereum, for example, will spend more than three times as much in Hawaii as they would in Louisiana, where abundant natural gas resources provide the cheapest electricity in the country.

911Metallurgist calculated the cost of mining Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin using data on the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour from the World Bank,, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The data on the number of days and wattage required to mine each coin with a mid-range miner for each cryptocurrency was taken from Coinwarz. Profitability is calculated using live crypto values from Live Coin Watch.

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NFT Academy Launches July 12

Do you have a strong interest in NFTs? Or are you an artist curious about what NFTs are and how they are made?

Purple Mai‘a and its HIAPO workforce development program is preenting a nine-week academy designed to give participants a foundational overview of the core skills needed to mint NonFungible Token digital artwork and corresponding smart contracts.

Related Reading: Beginner’s Guide to NFTs: What Are Non-Fungible Tokens?

Learn how to mint NFT digital artwork and more!

This is a free program held online from July 12 – September 9, 2022, and will be presented via Kaulu by KS Digital, a new digital learning portal that will grow to connect haumāna and ‘ohana to a range of community-created learning opportunities built on a Hawaiian cultural foundation with the goal of nurturing ‘ōiwi leaders — people who use their knowledge, skills and passion to strengthen Hawaiʻi and its people.

Apply at

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Digital Currency Innovation Lab extended through June 2024

The Division of Financial Institutions, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (“DFI”), and Hawaii Technology and Development Corporation (“HTDC”) today announced a two-year extension of the Digital Currency Innovation Lab (“DCIL”), allowing the pilot program to operate until June 30, 2024.

The extension comes at a critical point in time, as a pivotal bill that provided for the licensure of digital currency companies died during the recent 2022 Hawaii state legislative session. Without a licensing scheme in place, the DCIL was expected to close on June 30, 2022.

The DCIL was created by DFI and HTDC in 2020 through a partnership to gather data for the purpose of establishing a regulatory scheme and exploring the potential economic opportunities brought about by digital currencies. With successful admission into the DCIL, digital currency companies are permitted to conduct business in Hawaii without obtaining a state money transmitter license.

As of December 31, 2021, there were approximately 134,000 Hawaii consumers who transacted over $800 million in digital currencies through participating companies in the DCIL. In an effort to mitigate consumer harm and enable the continuation of digital currency activity in the state, the DFI and HTDC have managed to pull resources together to extend the pilot program.

“We are relieved for the opportunity to extend the DCIL for participating companies and consumers,” said Iris Ikeda, Commissioner of Financial Institutions. “A number of puzzle pieces had to fit together in order to make the new DCIL happen, but I am glad we are able to pull it off,” said Commissioner Ikeda.

“The DCIL has proven itself to be an economic driver and we recognize the potential it brings for the future of Hawaii,” said Len Higashi, Acting Executive Director, HTDC. “The continuation of the DCIL will provide us opportunities to build on the progress we have achieved over the past two years.”

Existing participating companies have the option to continue in the extended DCIL, subject to the acceptance of a new agreement and additional fees. Companies who choose to withdraw from the program will have to abide by the terms of the DCIL and commence its wind-down procedures starting on July 1, 2022 and concluding on December 31, 2022.

In due course, the DCIL will also start accepting applications from new digital currency companies who seek to be considered for admission into the pilot program.

For more information about the DCIL, visit the website at

Conference committee leads respond

Following the announcement, the leaders of the conference committee that deferred the licensing bill — Rep. Aaron Johanson and Sen. Bennette Misalucha — released a joint statement describing the extension as “fully in keeping with legislative intent.”

“Many of our residents have shared concerns over the past month on the future of digital currencies and what would happen to all of their investments made, so this decision will allow us to continue the conversation on how to best regulate this growing industry and reduce consumer harm,” Sen. Misalucha wrote.

Notably, Commissioner Ikeda had said that Hawaii faced “great consumer harm from closing down the DCIL,” the expected result after HB2108 failed.

Misalucha’s own bill, SB2695, was the only crypto legislation to make it to the governor’s desk. If signed, a blockchain and cryptocurrency task force will be formed to further research the space and ultimately develop another licensing or other regulatory scheme. Like the DCIL extension, the task force is expected to wrap up its work in 2024.

Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash.

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Commissioner Ikeda on ‘What’s The Law’

Iris Ikeda, Commissioner of the Division of Financial Institutions (DFI) at the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), didn’t have many words of comfort for Hawaii residents worried about their cryptocurrency holdings given the failure of HB2108 earlier this year.

Ikeda was the most recent featured guest on “What’s the Law,” a legal podcast hosted by Coralie Matayoshi at KHON. The headline? “Why Hawaii crypto investors need a plan to sell.”

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Although it was a wide-ranging conversation, the Hawaii crypto community was most interested in whether she had anything to say about the potential of extending the Digital Currency Innovation Lab regulatory sandbox.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ikeda said. “We depended on the licensure law to prolong or extend the digital currency innovation lab, but that did not happen. As of right now, we’re telling folks who are calling us and the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation that they should look for alternatives, or think about how they’re going to wind down their accounts.”

Ikeda asserted that the DCIL and its participating exchanges were very clear that the program was going to end on June 30, so everyone who signed up went in with eyes wide open.

“We told people who were getting into this in 2020 that the innovation lab is set to close, so to speak, on June 30 of this year,” she recalled. “We asked all of the companies to have a disclosure saying that people could lose all of the money that they put in, because this is not regulated in any way, and also that this study is going to end June 30 of this year.”

The commissioner noted that she had been working on cryptocurrency regulation, “or not having regulation,” since 2015, including several prior attempts at passing legislation before launching the DCIL as a way to gather practical data about how crypto companies could operate in Hawaii.

Despite the legislature’s failure to pass something that could have established a path forward, she’s said she’s exploring various options.

“There are so many people involved in this right now, we’re looking at ways to mitigate some of that harm, that consumer harm, that could be taking place,” she said. “We will be making a decision by at least the beginning of June, just to hopefully alert everyone — at least the participating companies — that they should notify all of their customers what their next steps should be.”

Ikeda noted that a wind-down plan was one of the prerequisites for participating in the DCIL.

As far as finding ways around the law?

“I think it’ll be a little bit difficult for people to do that,” Ikeda says.

“All of these companies have what’s called geo blocking — they know that Hawaii has this particular law, that this activity needs to be licensed,” she explained. “If people use an address in Hawaii, most of the companies are blocking those, either the account initiation or to continue trading.”

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DCIL seeks non-profits dabbling in crypto

The State of Hawaii’s Digital Currency Innovation Lab is looking for nonprofit organizations that are actively fundraising or investing via Bitcoin and digital currencies or are researching the practice to participate in a virtual round table focus group on 𝗪𝗲𝗱𝗻𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆, 𝗠𝗮𝘆 𝟭𝟭, 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟮 𝗮𝘁 𝟵:𝟬𝟬 𝗮.𝗺.

If you have time to learn and share with others what your organization is doing and considering, please email our community engagement consultant, Ryan Ozawa at to participate.

Here are a mix of participants that DCIL is looking for:

Sector: Arts, public health/social services, education, environment.Role: Executive, fundraiser, marketer, portfolio manager.Crypto experience: Actively fundraising, considering, investing.

Sample questions:

How much familiarity do you have with Bitcoin and other digital currencies as a method of payment or contribution to nonprofits and charitable causes?Some nonprofits have embraced and promoted their acceptance of Bitcoin and digital currency donations. What judgements would you say that practice evokes among donors and the public? How do the key demographics of a given nonprofit mesh with the concept?Nonprofits are subject to strict and complex tax and financial reporting requirements. Have you received any guidance relative to the implications digital currencies would have on your books?

Learn more about the Digital Currency Innovation Lab at

Via the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO) on LinkedIn.

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Honolulu magazine enters NFT fray

Own a Piece of Hawaii History: First-Ever NFT Collaboration between Artist Margaret Rice and HONOLULU Will Open for Bids on April 21.

April cover artwork celebrates women with limited edition of 20 signed tokens

For the first time ever, Honolulu magazine is partnering with illustrator Margaret Rice to announce an offering of 20 unique NFTs from artist Margaret Rice.

The NFTs will feature the iconic cover artwork commissioned by Honolulu for its April 2022 issue. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the NFTs will directly benefit YWCA Oahu and the Aloha United Way.

Bidding will begin at 8 a.m. HST on Thursday, April 21, 2022, and conclude at 8 a.m.HST on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

To learn more about the offering and view instructions about the NFT purchase process, visit

“There’s no shortage of incredible women in Hawaii — wāhine who work tirelessly on behalf of others, blaze trails for women and lead by example, even when that means standing up against deeply rooted injustices,” said Diane Seo, Honolulu editorial director. “From artists to educators to those at the forefront of their industry, these fearless females are an inspiration for all—regardless of gender. We are so pleased and proud to honor them on our cover as well as through our inaugural NFT release.”

An NFT, or “non-fungible token,” is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on the blockchain. There is only one physical piece of artwork with 20 digital issues (NFTs), each distinguished with its own data code. The 20 auction winners will share in the exclusivity of the original artwork while also owning distinct and separate issues that can be gifted, sold or traded in the future.

Since its founding as “Paradise of the Pacific” in 1888, Honolulu has endeavored to showcase the talented artists of Hawaii. Through the limited-edition NFT, Honolulu and its partner aio Digital aim to highlight Rice’s work and provide an opportunity for the public to acquire a unique collectible, all while raising money for two important local non-profit organizations.

The collaboration with Rice, who is known for her sinewy works featuring strong, gorgeous and often languid women, is a joint effort between HONOLULU and aio Digital. aio Digital includes various digital companies, brands, new ventures and investments within the aio family of companies. aio creates innovative products and is well-versed in the future-focused digital space, including NFT creation and other Web 3.0 technologies.

About the April issue of HONOLULU

In its April issue, the HONOLULU team put the spotlight on several talented women who prove glass ceilings are meant to be shattered. Read more.

About aio and aio Digital

aio is a family of businesses that span many different industries, all sharing a mission to provide products and services that promote Hawaii’s unique values, its people and culture. aio Digital includes various digital companies, brands, new ventures and investments within the aio family of companies. Its innovative products within the future-focused digital space include NFT creation and other Web 3.0 technologies. To learn more, visit

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