Charlie Shrem is the former CEO of a bitcoin exchange called BitInstant. In 2014 he pled guilty to one charge of aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitting business. He served one year in a federal prison.
According to his remarks on a 2017 TABB Group podcast, Shrem launched an online business called Daily Checkout when he was 18 years old. He discovered bitcoin while he was an undergraduate student at Brooklyn College and founded BitInstant in 2012 to facilitate bitcoin payments. The key to its success was partnering with payment processors that had physical locations throughout the U.S. BitInstant received angel investment support from Roger Ver and Winklevoss Capital.
In 2013, a BitInstant customer, Robert Faiella, was buying bitcoin on the platform and reselling the cryptocurrency to other people who then used it for transactions on Silk Road, an online marketplace primarily used for criminal activity. Silk Road was shut down in 2013 after the arrest of its founder, Ross William Ulbricht, by the FBI. Shrem had been aware of Faiella's reselling, and although he warned Faiella away from using BitInstant, he did not inform law enforcement.
In November 2018, a lawsuit was filed against Shrem in a federal court by the the Winklevoss Twins. The lawsuit accused Shrem of spending 5,000 bitcoin that Shrem had owed to them since 2012, which the Winklevoss twins suspected to be the source of funding for Shrem's multiple properties, cars, and boats. Some of Shrem's assets were frozen as a result, and his lawyer told the New York Times that Shrem was innocent.
According to an affidavit filed in court, Shrem had also not paid the U.S. federal government the $950,000 he had agreed to pay in restitution as part of his plea in 2014.
In Februrary 2019, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York ordered Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss to pay Shrem $45,000 in legal fees incurred during the lawsuit.
Professional Cryptocurrency Advisor
Since leaving jail, Shrem has served in a number of different roles, mostly as business advisor to cryptocurrency-focused companies, including the Czech trading platform Changelly. In January 2018, Shrem became an advisor to Particl, a blockchain dApp platform. In September, Shrem joined the advisory board for Kuende, a blockchain social media group. He was also involved with an ICO by Intellisys Capital and a debit/credit card project for Dash. Both projects were unsuccessful and ended up having to give the money they raised back to their investors.
Coindesk Opinion Piece
On October 20, 2018, Shrem published an opinion piece in Coindesk entitled "Bitcoin's White Paper Gave Us Liberty – Let's Not Give It Back." In the article, he called cryptocurrencies like bitcoin the "next logical step" in financial technology. He compared the vision of bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, to the creation of democracy and said that the widespread adoption of a decentralized, "democratized" monetary system like bitcoin would solve many of the problems currently facing the world economy. He specifically said that historically, the creation of "sloppy and even malicious" monetary policies overseen by world governments has led to severe economic issues that would not happen in a monetary system controlled by individuals rather than nations.
In 2012 Shrem received a B.S. in Economics and Finance from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
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