Fugitive extradited to Turkey to face Ponzi scheme charges

ISTANBUL — A Turkish national on the run after allegedly embezzling money from thousands of people in a Ponzi scheme has been extradited to Turkey and detained.

Mehmet Aydin, 30, is thought to have collected the equivalent of more than $131 million in Turkish lira from over 130,000 people through an online scheme called Ciftlik, or Farm Bank, an online game inspired by FarmVille where participants owned virtual animals and crops. Aydin fled abroad with some of that money.

Official Anadolu news agency said Sunday the indictment against Aydin included 3,672 complainants and 48 suspects. Prosecutors are seeking over 75,000 years in prison on charges including establishing and running an illegal organization, fraud and money laundering.

Turkey had an Interpol red notice out for Aydin, who turned himself in to authorities in Brazil after more than three years on the run. He was brought back to Turkey late Saturday and taken into custody.

The trial against the defendants began in 2019. The next hearing with Aydin will take place on Sept. 14.