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The self-proclaimed, first angel investor in Bitcoin, Roger Ver, is a very controversial figure today. After spending years evangelizing for Bitcoin, he now seems to want to destroy it. There's clear evidence he participated in and even orchestrated attacks on Bitcoin, as well as circumstantial evidence he funds sustained malicious efforts to undermine it. As the owner/operator of the TLD bitcoin.com, with many strategic investments in the space, a criminal history, current fraudulent activity, constant pressure to bring politics into Bitcoin, and associations with known scammers, Roger Ver is a dangerous person to the goal of government resistant hard money.
(Since this page is very negative of Roger Ver, I need to start by noting his positive traits as a successful entrepreneur and being fiercely dedicated to his beliefs. Both are traits I admire.)
Roger started his first business called Memory Dealers at the age of 19. Based in San Francisco, it sold new and used computer memory (RAM) during and after the dotcom bubble, but has since closed its doors memorydealers.com.
Along with RAM, Ver sold other products on the Memory Dealers website. One of those products is the source of neverending problems for him, putting him on the wrong side of the law, and placing him in prison for 10 months. The incident still plagues him, causing him multiple issues in his Bitcoin life, as well. In 2000 (pre-911), Ver was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, the felony of selling unlicensed fireworks (explosives) out of his apartment and shipping them without labeling them properly. His faithful fans are quick to say it was a victimless crime and critics are overreacting. However, it was not devoid of fraud and was clearly a dangerous activity. He was lucky there were no victims. Roger Ver was immature (even for being in his early 20s) and unable to see the difference between civil disobedience and outright dangerous behavior. This trend continues in his Bitcoin dealings, always misjudging what he's fighting and why, confusing means and ends.
Roger conveniently blames the entirety of his misfortunes on the reaction of a couple ATF agents, claiming their view of his political beliefs was alone, the source of his trouble, but he is clearly lying.
"They began looking into my background in the attempt to find dirt on me."
"While everyone else, including the manufacturer, were simply asked to stop selling them I became the only person in the nation to be prosecuted."
"The reasoning for the prosecution became crystal clear after a meeting with the US prosecuting attorney and the under cover ATF agents from the debate. In the meeting, my attorney told the prosecutor that selling store bought firecrackers on Ebay isn’t a big deal and that we can pay a fine and do some community service to be done with everything. When the prosecutor agreed that that sounded reasonable one of the ATF agents pounded his hand on the table and shouted “…but you didn’t hear the things that he said!” This summed up very clearly that they were angry about the things that I had said, not the things that I had done."
THE COURT: And has anyone threatened you in any way in order to cause you to plead guilty in this case?
THE DEFENDANT: It depends on how you define "threaten," but I would say no, Your Honor.
THE COURT: By "threat" what I mean is someone said if you don't plead guilty, you're going to be harmed or some member of your family will be harmed or something bad will happen to you apart from the legal process.
THE DEFENDANT: Nothing apart from the legal process, Your Honor.
THE COURT: So the threat that you were referring to is the threat you would receive more time in prison if you were to go to trial and be convicted?
THE DEFENDANT: That and additional charges, Your Honor.
THE COURT: And additional charges. Okay. So your decision to plead guilty has, in fact, been influenced by the possibility that you could receive additional charges and additional prison time; is that right?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: But there are no other threats of any kind or nature other than that?
THE DEFENDANT: None other than that, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Are you presently under the influence of any drug or medication?
THE DEFENDANT: I've been taking cold medicine.
THE COURT: All right. Does the cold medicine affect your ability to understand what you're doing right now?
THE DEFENDANT: It might impair my ability to determine that. I feel pretty miserable. I have the flu currently.
THE COURT: Would it be better to do this a different day?
THE DEFENDANT: I'm prepared to do this today
THE COURT: Again, I don't want to have a problem later because on reflection you don't believe you understood what you were doing. Does the medicine you take affect your judgment to the extent that you don't understand the questions I'm asking you?
THE DEFENDANT: I don't think so, Your Honor.
THE COURT: All right. Does it affect your understanding of the importance of this particular proceeding?
THE DEFENDANT: I hope not, Your Honor. I'm sure my mental capacity isn't, you know, up to par compared to how it would be normally.
THE COURT: Well, I want to be clear here that if you have any doubt about your ability to comprehend and understand what's taking place we should -- we should do it another time. This is truly a case of haste makes waste. If you plead guilty today and decide two weeks from now that I really didn't mean to do that and if it hadn't been for that medicine I wouldn't have, it's going to be a very messy thing for everybody concerned especially you. So if you have any question in your mind about your ability to think clearly this morning, I will continue this to another day.
THE DEFENDANT: In all honesty I think that that might upset, you know, two of the attorneys present and I'm willing to sign today.
THE COURT: But, you see, I appreciate your concern for them, but if sometime in the future you have buyer's remorse about this plea agreement, to be very blunt about it, and you say, "I didn't understand what was happening and I didn't knowingly and intelligently give up my rights and I didn't understand the consequence of my plea," then that would have to be litigated. I don't want to create a situation where that's going to occur. So I have to ask you again if you have any doubt about your ability mentally to proceed this morning, then we should proceed at a different time.
THE DEFENDANT: I'm prepared to sign today. I feel I can do so knowingly and intelligently.
THE COURT: Okay. Let me then discuss with you the elements of each of these offenses ...
I don't doubt that most ATF agents are bad people, but it's likely a free market justice system would have been more harsh on him for endangering the public. Whatever the case, both his version of events and the official court transcripts show a pathological narcissist trying to wiggle out of admitting wrongdoing. When added to his recent megalomania and fraudulent behavior, the image of a dangerous personality begins to take shape.
In 2005, Ver started another business called Agilestar to sell fibre optic transceivers, still in business as far as I can tell. In 2006, he moved to Japan after the probation for the felony ended. Then in 2014, he renounced his US Citizenship.
Ver bought his first bitcoins in 2011 under $1 after hearing about it on an episode of Free Talk Live. Gavin Andressen had personally introduced Bitcoin to Mark Edge over lunch, one of the show's hosts. When Mark mentioned it on air Roger was listening. Ver quickly started promoting Bitcoin on Free Talk Live by switching his already running Memory Dealer ads for Bitcoin ads.
In the early days, Roger was given the nickname, "Bitcoin Jesus", because he was Bitcoin's most visible evangelist. (He claims he didn't start the nickname and doesn't like it, but that's hard to believe.) Roger was responsible for introduced bitcoin to many in the "freedom movement" and made early appearances on MSM.
After 2 years of evangelizing, something changed in 2013. It turned out to be a really bad year for "Bitcoin Jesus". He was the center of a several major scandals. First was a purchase of Ripple (XRP) from Ripple Labs, which they failed to file a suspicious activity report on. That was a big deal, because Roger Ver is a convicted felon. Ripple Labs was fined $750,000 for the oversight, yet Roger kept the coins.
As a result of this FINCEN action against Ver, OKCoin, who was then leasing bitcoin.com for $10,000/month, stopped payments to Ver. This is a complicated issue, involving lawyers and cryptographic signatures, but suffice it to say Roger had a public fight over the domain.
Next, near the end of the year, he appeared on a YouTube video calmly claiming to have reviewed MtGox's books and they were solvent. Of course, a month or so later, the exchange closed down due to a massive leak in their wallets going back years, with a grand total of 800,000 bitcoins lost. At the same time there were rumor flying about Peter Vessenes and John Matonis, both involved in the Bitcoin Foundation with Roger, which I touch on below. It was leaked that well connected whales were able to withdrawl their funds from MtGox while others could not. It's my belief that Roger's motivation for making the MtGox video was to allow him and his cronies the opportunity to withdraw their coins.
When Ver was selling fireworks out of his apartment, he also ran for political office. It was a first glimpse at a recurring theme in his life of striving for political influence.
There's little information out there about his political activities between 2000 and 2011 other than second hand, like Erik Voorhees said in an interview that Roger was a long time political activist in New Hampshire. We know he was involved with the political movement associated with Free Talk Live up in Keene, New Hampshire. At the time, Keene was very hyped in liberty circles like The Free State Project, a centralized minarchist organization.
Ver constantly tells us his moral understanding of the State is based on Rothbard's work. However, he claims to be a Voluntaryist, where Rothbard called himself an anarchist. It's a very subtle, but very important insight. I find people often identify as Voluntaryists instead of anarchists, because they are sensitive to public opinion. In Ver's case, this explanation fits, because he strives for political influence. Voluntaryists also tend to overemphasize their concern for coercion, while very narrowly defining fraud and forgiving rent-seeking almost entirely. That characterizes Roger's behavior in a nutshell.
More specifically, some of Roger's early investing and donating around the Bitcoin space was into political organizations instituted to bring politics into Bitcoin. One such donation was to the fledgling Bitcoin Foundation, where he also took a seat on the Board of Directors. The Bitcoin Foundation was a political boondoggle from the start, struggling to find a role, but often deciding on the most political possible. Again, we see Ver striving for political influence.
Ver's involvement with the Bitcoin Foundation was also another case of his close affiliation with criminal activity. The founding Board of Directors included infamous Mark Karpeles, Charlie Shrem, disgraced crony Peter Vessenes, and CIA mole Gavin Andressen.
- Bitcoin.com - CEO, founder, owner
- Passports for Bitcoin
- Bitcoin Bounty Hunter
- Hive Web
- Bitcoin Chip In
His early evangelism quickly turned into outright attacks on bitcoin itself after an embarrassing mistake with MtGox (below). These attacks took many forms, from publicly shaming virtuous Core developers, promoting existing altcoin attacks like Dash (darkcoin), using his influence to politicize a minor disagreement into a full blown conflict, sponsoring malicious propaganda campaigns and hostile takeover schemes, and supporting a hard fork that attempted to force a politically unpopular and technically dangerous security flaw into bitcoin disguised as a scaling solution.
Among his public statements, Ver has supported every significant political movement Bitcoin, Bitcoin XT, Bitcoin Classic, Bitcoin Unlimited, Bitcoin Cash, and Bitcoin 2x. Each a failure to takeover Bitcoin.
In 2013, Ver was at the height of his popularity and bitcoin was making fantastic gains. MtGox was the biggest bitcoin exchange, home to approximately 75% of the worlds bitcoin trading volume at the time. MtGox was run by Mark Karpeles in Japan, where Ver also lived. There had been problems with the MtGox website for weeks and it all came to a head in late 2013.
During this precarious time, Ver made a now famous video where he said that he had examined the books and MtGox was solvent. Of course, we quickly found out that was not the case when it was announced shortly after Ver's public guarantee that MtGox had been hacked and lost an estimated 800,000 bitcoins. This was the beginning of the end of the bitcoin's love affair with Roger Ver.