Thousands of investors worldwide got scammed millions of dollars of Bitcoin (500+ BTC) collectively by a startup business incubator project based on cryptocurrency (California, USA)
Location: He is in Brazil, I’m in California, but other investors are worldwide. EDIT: He resides in Spain. Brazil was a frequent travel destination due to a relationship with someone, but not his place of residence.
Sorry this is so long. I really do appreciate your time and effort in reading this and responding
Info: About 13 months ago thousands of us invested Bitcoin into a project that promised to create an online platform where people can submit ideas for businesses and crowdfund them and bring them into fruition. Once was platform was created one of the features was to allow people to offer their services, abilities, skills, etc. to these budding businesses in order to receive compensation via the token that was created for this project. These tokens can then be used to invest in other businesses on the website or traded for BTC.
This project may sound far-fetched but there are others that now exist that are decently successful with a similar idea to this, but at the time this project in question was brainstormed (2+ years ago), it was a unique idea. The people who invested early got shares of the company (tokens) at a discounted rate. This would mean that once the platform was fully launched, the promised returns of the project in a year would be 15-20x guaranteed (we never expected BTC to have 20x returns in 2017). These returns may sound unfathomable, but they aren’t uncommon with ICO’s and ITO’s in the crypto world as long as enough people invest and the idea is taken seriously by the creator(s).
Long story short, after he had worked tirelessly on the start of this project and many of us believed in him and invested large sums of money (solely in BTC), the person running the project took the investments and thought he could beat the returns on BTC and pocket the money for himself, so he started riskily trading with the money with positive returns, then invested most of it on alt coins to sit on, mainly Stellar (XLM/STR) and bragged about it. He had bought in at a poor price and ended up losing a lot of money and looking like a fool, but pretended that this was his own money and he wasn’t investing our money.
Months went by and the progress of the website was slowing down and we received fewer and fewer updates until his Facebook account (where he kept us up to date) went away and the site went offline.
In December of 2017 he had the domain of the website redirect to a Google Doc where he stated that the project was a failure and that there were too many legal consequences to make this a legitimate project and he had lost interest, so he is going to return our money to us. He promised to give back the initial BTC we invested, once his Stellar would be worth more relative to BTC in the coming months. He talked about how he was trying to safeguard the funds in STR in case BTC tanked in 2017 (so now he admits that it was our funds he was gambling with, not his own).
Later he amended that update and said that he was only able to pay out $1.73 million dollars to us and that the rest of the money went to building the platform and paying programmers and designers for the initial portions of the website, etc. Let’s keep in mind that his STaltcoin investments would be worth over $10 million today. Even though the value of STR didn’t go up as much as BTC, it still went up and because of those early risky trades he did with our money, he made some decent returns there, so what he has today is worth more than what our BTC would be worth. Our initial BTC investment in December 2017 would be worth about $10 million or so, and now in February it is worth about $5.5 million.
We have until March 1st 2018 to submit a refund claim via email and then of all the valid refund claims, he will divide out the money to us. The problem is that we will be getting so much less than what we originally invested and based on all the screenshots he posted of his Poloniex account, we know how much he really had. There is absolutely no way he spent millions thus far on the project. Before his Facebook went offline he was seen going on vacations and buying unnecessary items like cars and land (albeit nothing very lavish).
Even if everyone submitted a refund claim, we would get three times our initial investment back, but really we should be getting ten times our investment back solely on the price of BTC rising in the last year. We all invested when BTC was around $1000, and now it is around $10,000. Of course since the project was a failure, we aren’t expecting the tokens we invested in to be worth any extra, but solely in our initial BTC investment the value of that went up, so we want that back, less some fees for programmers and such. If the whole project was done in BTC and you gave up on it, return us the BTC.
All we want is our BTC back in full or almost full (minus some operating expenses). He could pay us back and still have $5+ million that he made gambling with our money. He can have that. But instead he is pretending it is all gone and pocketing $10 million dollars for himself. He even bragged about being a crypto millionaire and losing interest in doing this project.
What do you suggest we do and is there a way to file a class action lawsuit? We have some proof via screenshots and downloaded website pages, investor lists, marketing material, etc. but due to the nature of this project being in cryptocurrency and the relative infancy of legal action with crypto scams, what do you suggest? Thanks in advance.
TL;DR: Thousands of us invested in a project (550+ BTC) , owner got greedy and thought he could make some extra money by investing our money, loses lots, scraps projects, makes a decent amount back with cryptos going up in value and pockets it and offers a pitiful refund (175 BTC / $1.73 million) and keeps the rest (1000 BTC / $10+ million) that he made with risky trading of our money with altcoins. He has over ~$10 million, owes us ~$5.5 million, yet only wants to pay exactly $1.73 million.
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What r/fatFIRE can learn from the book, Psychology of Money
My favorite author, Morgan Housel, released his new book, The Psychology of Money, last week. In the book, Housel discussed many interesting psychological phenomenon, through the lens of finance. As I flipped through the pages, I started to realize so much of what's happening in fatFIRE are examples of what's discussed in the book. No One's Crazy The book begins with how your personal experiences with money make up maybe 0.000000001% of what's happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. For example, if you were born in 1970, the S&P 500 increased almost 10-fold, adjusted for inflation, during your teens and 20s. That's an amazing return. If you were born in 1950, the market went literally nowhere in your teens and 20s adjusted for inflation. Two groups of people, separated by chance of their birth year, go through life with a completely different view on how the stock market works. Takeaways forfatFIRE: When you read other posts and comments about what stocks to buy, what startups to join, what's the economy going to be like, what's the best asset allocation, etc., remember that is just a single person's point of view. That person may be from a different generation, earns different incomes, upholds different values, keeps different jobs, and has different degrees of luck. And remember, don't be mean to others. A view about money that one group of people thinks is outrageous can make perfect sense to another. Luck & Risk The next chapter discusses the big role luck and risk plays in someone's life. Luck and risk are two sides of the same coin. Examples from the book: Countless fortunes (and mistakes) owe their outcomes to leverage. The best (and worst) managers drive their employees as hard as they can. "The customers are always right" and "customers don't know what they want" are both accepted business wisdom. The line between "inspiringly bold" and "foolishly reckless" can be a millimeter thick and only visible with hindsight. Risk and luck are doppelgängers. Takeaways forfatFIRE: Be careful who you praise and admire. That commenter who joined a unicorn at Series A may look like a genius on the outside, but they may just be lucky and cannot repeat it again. Be careful who you look down upon and wish to avoid becoming. That poster who joined WeWork may look like a fool, but they made the best decision based on the information they had at a time. They took a risk and got unlucky. Therefore, focus less on specific individuals and case studies and more on broad patterns. Furthermore, when things are going extremely well, realize it's not as good as you think -- like the stock market right now. On the other hand, we should forgive ourselves and leave room for understanding when judging failures -- like the stock market in March. Never Enough The hardest financial skill is getting the goalpost to stop moving. It gets dangerous when the taste of having more -- more money, more power, more prestige -- increases ambition faster than satisfaction. Social comparison is the problem here. A rookie baseball players who earns $500k a year envies Mike Trout who has a 12-year, $430 million contract envies a hedge fund manager who makes $340 million a year envies Warren Buffett who had a $3.5 billion increase in fortune in 2018. There are many things never worth risking, no matter the potential gain. Reputation is invaluable. Freedom and independence are invaluable. Friends and family are invaluable. Being loved by those who you want to love you is invaluable. Happiness is invaluable. And your best shot at keeping these things is knowing when it's time to stop taking risks that might harm them. Knowing when you have enough. Takeaways forfatFIRE: When you make a big gain, it's totally okay to take profit, as long as you keep your ambition down and acknowledge the possibility that it may go higher. If that happens, no need to play the would've should've could've game, because it very well might've gone the other way. When you see someone who got 20x return on Shopify or bet big into Ethereum in 2016, remember they may envy the pre-IPO employees at Shopify or the genius who held Bitcoin since 2010. At the end of the day, do not risk more than what's comfortable in your life for the sake of making huge amount of money, because even if you do make it, you may not find it worth it. Tails, You Win Skipping a few chapters to talk about the prominence of tail events. At the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in 2013 Warren Buffet said he's owned 400 to 500 stocks during his life and made most of his money on 10 of them. Charlie Munger followed up: "If you remove just a few of Berkshire's top investments, its long-term track record is pretty average." In 2018, Amazon drove 6% of the S&P 500's returns. And Amazon's growth is almost entirely due to Prime and Amazon Web Services, which itself are tail events in a company that has experimented with hundreds of products, from the Fire Phone to travel agencies. Apple was responsible for almost 7% of the index's returns in 2018. And it is driven overwhelmingly by the iPhone, which in the world of tech products is as tail--y as tails get. And who's working at these companies? Google's hiring acceptance rate if 0.2%. Facebook's is 0.1%. Apple's is about 2%. So the people working on these tail projects that drive tail returns have tail careers. Takeaways forfatFIRE: When we pay special attention to a role model's successes we overlook that their gains came from a small percent of their actions. That makes our own failures, losses, and setbacks feel like we're doing something wrong. When you accept that tails drive everything is business, investing and finance you will realize that it's normal for lots of things to go wrong, break, fail and fall. If you are a good stock picker you'll be right maybe half the time. If you're a good business leader maybe half of your product and strategy ideas will work. If you're a good investor most years will be just OK, and plenty will be bad. If you're a good worker you'll find the right company in the right field after several attempts and trials. And that's if you're good. Freedom The highest form of wealth is the ability to wake up every morning and say "I can do whatever I want today." The ability to do what you want, when you want, with who you want, for as long as you want, is priceless. It is the highest dividend money pays. Research has shown having a strong sense of controlling one's life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of wellbeing than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered. People like to feel like they're in control -- in the drivers' seat. When we try to get them to do something, they feel disempowered. Rather than feeling like they made the choice, they feel like we made it for them. So they say no or do something else, even when they might have originally been happy to go along. Takeaways forfatFIRE: Most of you probably are working thought-based and decision job, your tool is your head, which never leaves you. You might be thinking about your project during your commute, as you're making dinner, while you put your kids to sleep, and when you wake up stressed at three in the morning. You might be on the clock for fewer hours than you would in 1050. But it feels like you're working 24/7. If this feels like you, and you do not like it, it is totally fine to switch to a job that pays less but gives you more freedom and independence, because freedom and independence are what FatFire is all about. --- I'm only half way into the book, but I can tell this will be one of the best finance book of 2020. If you guys find this useful, happy to come back next week with more insights once I've gotten to the end. I like talking about these things on Twitter too. Edit: here's part 2 and here's a Twitter thread of the best snippets
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