Cryptocurrency scam: South Tampa bakery to close after online 'investor' disappears

A Tampa bakery owner is warning crypto investors after she says she was scammed out of more than $80,000 of her life savings. She now says she'll have to shut down her business.

Lorena Brunson's dream has always been to retire and open up a bakery. All was going according to plan up until a few months ago when she says a cryptocurrency scam wiped her out, financially. 

"It's been really stressful. I mean, I think I cried for the first couple of weeks," Brunson said.

A few months ago, her son started investing in cryptocurrency through a website after someone reached out to him about it on Instagram. Soon, his $500 investment doubled to $1,000 then $,2000. After a week, he saw huge returns and was able to withdrawal more than $1,000 in cash.

Around the same time, Bruson – who has been running Beanie and Bellies Cupcakery in South Tampa for the last 6 years – was in a pinch and needed money. When her son told her about his investments, she thought it could be the break she needed.

Tampa bakery owner warns others after life savings wiped out by cryptocurrency scam

Tampa bakery owner warns others after life savings wiped out by cryptocurrency scam

"I gave him $4,000 initially and he invested it, and then he was able to make a profit on that, and then he was able to withdraw. I really was like 3 or $4,000 after that," Brunson said.

As the weeks passed, investments grew and more friends and family got involved. After two months, Brunson says she had invested $80,000 and collectively had a crypto account with an upwards of $177,000. Their contact through the website then told them they would need to pay $62,000 in taxes before they could access the profits.

"Initially I thought it was kind of strange, you know, that we had to pay the taxes. And I kept saying, 'Why? Why can't you take the tax money out of them, out of the profits?'" Brunson said.

Their contact stopped responding. That's when Brunson went to police, but was told there was little that could be done. It was already too late.

She had invested her life-savings which was money she planned to use to move her bakery to a new location. Now she says she has no choice but to close.

"I'm losing everything. I'm moving in with my daughter. I'm losing my home. I'm losing my business because I invested every dime that I had into this to try to, you know, to relocate my store," Brunson said.

She's hoping for miracle to somehow bounce back and is trying to raise money online, but says she'll likely have to close down when her lease expires in October. She's now warning others to beware – before investing in crypto. 

"I just want people to do their research and just make sure you really pay attention to where you're putting your money and that it's a legitimate business," Brunson said.