Charlie Shrem, the former yeshiva student that spent a year in prison for Bitcoin-related crimes, is being sued by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the two members of a team of entrepreneurial twin brothers.
I’m on a boat
The pair have made a fortune in Bitcoin, running several businesses in the sector. According to the New York Times, Shrem was the person that first got them into Bitcoin back in 2012, and they gave him $750,000 to buy some for them. They have claimed ever since that he did not return that money in full.
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Shrem, who was released from prison in June 2016, claimed that his legal tribulations left him without any money. However, over the last year he has purchased a number of ostentatious items – including more than one large boat.
The twins noticed this behaviour and hired a private investigator, who came up with the sum of 5,000 bitcoins, currently worth approximately $31.8 million. The money is reportedly located in two wallet services, and the twins successfully petitioned a New York judge to have these wallets frozen. This was the same judge that accepted Shrem’s guilty plea back in 2015.
Shrem, who hails from Brooklyn, was imprisoned for his role in the operation of Silk Road, an online marketplace. Specifically, his business, a Bitcoin exchange called BitInstant, was used to process the money of Silk Road users. Silk Road was subsequently deemed illegal by US authorities and operator Ross Ulbricht sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
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The crime Shrem was sent down for was unlicensed money transmission and failing to report suspicious banking activities.
Interestingly, the twins had facilitated a $1.5 million investment in BitInstant. However, when the business collapsed in 2013 they blocked Shrem from gaining investment from other people, and they cut off contact with him when he was arrested in 2014.
Shrem told WNYC Studios this time last year that he worked as a dishwasher while out on parole, an experience which he called humbling, and that he owned a few bitcoins but doesn’t hold them: “I can’t speculate with my rent.”
According to the law suit, over the last year Shrem has purchased two Maserati sports cars, two powerboats and several properties, one of which is worth $2 million. It was these purchases which spurred the duo into action.
The lawsuit says: “Either Shrem has been incredibly lucky and successful since leaving prison, or — more likely — he ‘acquired’ his six properties, two Maseratis, two powerboats and other holdings with the appreciated value of the 5,000 Bitcoin [that] he stole”.
Shrem’s lawyer said in a response: “The lawsuit erroneously alleges that about six years ago Charlie essentially misappropriated thousands of Bitcoins. Nothing could be further from the truth. Charlie plans to vigorously defend himself and quickly clear his name.”