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What Happened to Skycoin? How Crypto Pioneer Fell Victim to Blackmail

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Skycoin began developing its first blockchain to address some of the shortcomings inherent in both Bitcoin and Ethereum, such as centralized mining and a lack of a description language. It officially launched the Skycoin token, SKY, in 2012. Over its ten years of activity, the company has created a developer friendly ecosystem consisting of blockchain and Web 3.0 solutions. 

Skycoin’s flagship products are Fiber, an infinitely scalable and highly customizable parallel 2P2 network architecture; CX, a multifunctional programming language specialized for developing blockchain applications; and Skyminer, equipment for running Skywire network nodes, as well as zero-configuration hardware and blockchain solutions for enterprise networks. 

Skycoin co-founder Brandon Smietana is a crypto space pioneer who participated in writing code for the world’s first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. In the early crypto community, Brandon was well known by his Internet name ‘Synth’.

Crypto Bubble Craze Crimes

Amidst the ICO bubble of 2018, when crazy money poured into the crypto market, Skycoin’s token reached a market cap of $5 billion. While innovative cryptocurrency crowdfunding gave worthwhile projects a chance to develop, there were also a lot of scammers in the market who eventually discredited ICOs. Over 96 percent of ICOs failed to list on exchanges after taking money from the public, resulting in a complete loss to participants.

However, financial fraud was not the worst thing that happened at that time. As crypto asset prices shot through the roof, there was also an explosion of crypto related crime. As a result, crypto came under law enforcement’s radar in 2018, and governments started to look at how to deal with the new digital asset. Even Brandon Smietana, the co-founder of Skycoin, fell victim to crypto ransomware.

Essence of Skycoin’s 2022 Lawsuit

On February 8, 2022, Skycoin filed a federal RICO lawsuit (Skycoin v. Stephens, 22-cv-00708, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Chicago) against former contractors and several other defendants who had launched a deliberate attack on the company and its leader in 2018. 

This criminal campaign, which included vilification of Skycoin by hired journalists and social media groups, as well as kidnapping and extortion, began in 2018 and continues to this day. 

The main defendants are Bradford Stephens and Harrison Gevirtz, aka ‘HaRRo’, who is presumed to be the founder of blackhatworld.com, and whose company Eagle Web Associates was subject to US Government FTC action concerning illegal marketing practices in 2014 and 2016.

Skycoin entered a contract with their company in early 2018 to manage a marketing and brand awareness program, as well as SEO optimization for its website.

The group received $1 million for its services, but then Stephens and Gevirtz attempted to extort more money from Skycoin. 

The blackmail campaign began with spam attacks. When the conspirators’ demand for $100,000 – $300,000 per month to stop them went unmet, the extortionists demanded $30 million in BTC and $1 million in cash, threatening to keep SKY from being listed on leading exchanges if they weren’t paid. 

But the case was not limited to extortion and blackmail. According to the lawsuit, in 2018, Stephens and Gevirtz organized to have Smietana and his girlfriend kidnapped in Shanghai to force Skycoin’s co-founder to give up passwords to his computer, which contained source code and other information. Brandon was beaten and tortured in his home for six hours before succumbing. Consequently, the attackers managed to steal about $139,000 in Bitcoin and $220,000 in Skycoin. 

The assailants were eventually arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison, but the organizers of this lawlessness are still at large. To this day, Smietana still receives threats and insults from them, including attacks and smears on social media. He has even received antisemitic abuse, calling him “a Jew who deserves to die.” 

The ability to anonymously attack people online has created a hostile environment in the crypto industry, where anything goes, leaving worthy projects like Skycoin vulnerable to nefarious opportunists. The company hopes its lawsuit will restore its good name and see its token rise to its true potential, after it fell from a peak of nearly $50 to 20 cents under a barrage of misinformation.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice 

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