Journo’s brazen $4.8m crypto con
A former journalist who once wrote for the New York Times could spend up to 20 years behind bars if convicted for ripping off start-ups to the tune of $US3.5 ($A4.8) million.
Jerry Ji Guo, a 31-year-old Yale University graduate, was arrested on November 9 in Puerto Rico on wire-fraud charges.
According to a detailed The Daily Beast article on Mr Guo's exploits, he allegedly swiped millions in cryptocurrency from a number of companies that hired him as a consultant.
He allegedly carried out his scheme through initial coin offerings (ICO) - a type of fundraising using cryptocurrencies in which a certain amount of crypto is sold to investors in the form of tokens, in exchange for either cash or other cryptocurrencies.
Mr Guo touted himself as an ICO expert, and clients would pay him a deposit for his services into a crypto "wallet".
On August 19, he allegedly drained those wallets, stealing $US3.5 million in Bitcoin and Ethereum, reporter Kevin Poulsen revealed.
According to an affidavit lodged in court by FBI agent Mark Matulich, Mr Guo allegedly lured in clients by "intentionally making materially false and misleading statements about his experience and credentials as an ICO consultant."
After receiving upfront payments from clients, it is alleged he did "little to no work as promised under the contracts" before eventually emptying the wallets without the knowledge or authorisation of his victims.
Mr Matulich claims that when the FBI started looking into Mr Guo, they found his resume packed with fake clients who had never actually worked with him.
He also claimed to have headed up an ICO which raised $US100 million for a company called Polymath.
But according to Mr Matulich, "Polymath ended its relationship with Guo after about a month and a half because Guo did not actually do anything".
Mr Guo, who described himself online as a "serial blockchain entrepreneur", has also claimed to have transacted "over-the-counter trades between $50-$350 million in size".
Mr Guo will now be transferred to San Jose in California to face an "eight-count indictment" which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in jail, The Daily Beast reported.
According to Mr Guo's LinkedIn profile, he graduated with an economics degree from Yale in 2009 and went on to become a New York Times contributor and then an internship as a foreign correspondent for Newsweek, which later merged with The Daily Beast.
In 2011, he co-founded a tech start-up called Grouper that arranged get-togethers between groups of friends, and over the years has allegedly also been the head chef of a Beijing burger restaurant, as well as founding several other tech companies.
While working for Newsweek, Mr Guo allegedly used to claim he was on official assignments so he could score expensive, free gifts and travel opportunities, including a five-star trip to Thailand for himself and a friend that was organised by the nation's tourism board.
After he left the publication, Gawker claims Newsweek's legal department received a slew of complaint letters about his conduct.