Crypto’s biggest villains have run rampant over the blockchain industry this last year. The ‘Baddies’ of the cryptocurrency world have done everything in their power to destroy crypto’s good name.
Whether it’s in the courtroom, on social media, or even from a secret North Korean bunker, these crypto villains are bad news for blockchain’s growth.
Who are these dastardly devils, and what are their heinous crimes against crypto?
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What Is a Crypto Villain?
A “Crypto Villain” is not your ordinary antagonist. In many cases, today’s rogue scoundrel is yesterday’s heroic champion. Cult figures like Sam Bankman-Fried and Do Kwon were once touted as visionaries who were propelling crypto into the future, but we all know how that turned out.
Crypto villains can be individuals, groups, or even authoritative figures who manipulate the decentralized dream for their own gain. Their actions and behavior devastate the crypto space and suffocate growth and innovation in this emerging industry.
Six Biggest Crypto Villains 2023
While most people dress up as their favorite villains for Halloween, these crypto crooks don’t need a disguise. Which notorious crypto villains have damaged the blockchain industry in 2023?
1. Gary Gensler
In the number one position, how could it be anyone else? Despite everything the crypto space has suffered at the hands of our former heroes, Gary Gensler takes the top spot in 2023.
Chairman of the SEC, Gensler and his pack of attack dogs have sought to bring down cryptocurrency at every possible turn this year. Ruling with an iron fist of regulatory might, Gary headed the long-standing legal battle with Brad Garlinghouse and Ripple Labs.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gensler’s war on crypto has spread far wider than XRP alone. Gary hasn’t wasted a second this year, filing lawsuits against Coinbase and Binance and viciously attacking Kraken’s crypto-staking platform.
Of course, Gary Gensler doesn’t consider himself evil. In his own eyes, he’s protecting the common folk from a market full of ‘hucksters, scam artists, and fraudsters.’ Despite this, other powerful officials have called for Gensler to be fired, citing his inability to protect investors from two of the biggest crypto failures in history, FTX and Terra Luna.
2. Sam Bankman-Fried
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Sam Bankman-Fried is 2022’s biggest villain. However, considering that the FTX debacle rages on and billions of dollars are still unaccounted for, SBF’s crimes carry over into 2023’s pantheon of evil.
Alongside his devious right-hand, Caroline Ellison, Bankman-Fried stole over $8B USD of customer deposits to fund his devastatingly risky trading strategy and extravagant lifestyle. Despite posing as the face of altruism and relatability, SBF’s actions rocked the crypto world and set the space back years.
Today, Sam Bankman-Fried sits in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting trial for an increasing number of charges, including securities fraud, money laundering, and campaign financing violations.
3. The Lazarus Group
Hailing from the mysterious depths of North Korea, the Lazarus Group is an elite cybercrime hacking organization who’ve terrorized the crypto industry for years.
The Lazarus Group has been behind some of the biggest crypto heists in 2023. In fact, the North Korean hackers are estimated to have exploited almost $240M in just 104 days by attacking popular platforms like Atomic Wallet, Coinspaid, Alphapo, and Stake.com.
Fortunately, their pace seems to be slowing. A Chainalysis report suggests that the total amount of funds stolen by North Korean hackers are down over 80% since 2022, when the infamous group hijacked $1.65B USD.
4. Ben ‘Bitboy’ Armstrong
If you’ve ever spent even a second on Crypto YouTube, chances are you’re familiar with Ben Armstrong, aka Bitboy Crypto. Formerly the host of the ‘most popular crypto channel on the interwebs,’ Armstrong’s fall from grace has been colossal.
Anyone who’s closely followed Bitboy’s behavior over the years knows that he’s nothing more than a serial grifter. Blockchain detective ZachXBT outed Armstrong for a series of dishonest scam promotions over the years, but Ben’s 2023 antics were the final nail in the coffin.
First, there was the BEN coin, a meme coin that Armstrong unceremoniously dumped on his followers just seven days after promising them he had big plans for the project and wouldn’t sell any coins for six months.
In 2023 alone, Bitboy also threatened to dox Shiba Inu developer Shytoshi Kusama, ignored court summons for harassment charges laid against him, and was also sued for promoting FTX’s native token, FTT.
After several public and private outbursts, Ben Armstrong and his media company, Hit Network, had a falling out. Citing death threats and extortion, Armstrong begged his followers for donations to help him retrieve his Lamborghini from Hit Network, claiming the media company made death threats against him and his family.
The saga reached its climatic end when Armstrong live-streamed his horror Lamborghini repossession attempt. Thousands of followers watched as Ben, with narcotics, his mistress, and a loaded firearm in tow, was arrested by police outside the house of his former partner, Carlos Diaz.
5. Do Kwon
Do Kwon fits in the same box as Sam Bankman-Fried. While his villainous actions mostly took place during 2022, the lasting repercussions have lasted long into this year and beyond.
Founder of the Terra blockchain and LUNA cryptocurrency, Do Kwon’s creative stablecoin protocol UST was sent into an unsustainable death spiral that brought the crypto space to its knees.
Throughout 2022, Do Kwon evaded capture despite being wanted for questioning in the U.S., South Korea, and Singapore for questioning.
The elusive crypto mogul was eventually arrested and imprisoned in Montenegro for possession of forged passports. He is currently detained in a Montenegrin prison known for its rough conditions. Kwon is desperately trying to avoid being extradited to stand trial in the U.S. and South Korea.
6. Craig Wright
One of the most widely despised figures in the crypto space is Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist with a tendency for sacrilege. You see, Wright claims to be none other than the founder of Bitcoin and the father of cryptocurrency himself, Satoshi Nakamoto.
As if he wasn’t already unpopular enough, Craig Wright took things one step further and sued Bitcoin’s current core development team. Wright claims that his trading company, Tulip Trading, was hacked and lost 111,000 BTC. As compensation for this loss, Wright demands that Bitcoin developers create a ‘backdoor’ in the protocol to retrieve his funds.
Of course, if Craig Wright were truly Satoshi Nakamoto, surely he would access the creator’s wallets, which allegedly hold around 1M bitcoins. In this case, he would also know that you can’t simply code a ‘backdoor’ into the Bitcoin blockchain.
On the Flipside
- Despite Satoshi Nakamoto’s best intentions, the cryptocurrency world is laced with overwhelming greed. Crypto is often compared to the Wild West, a lawless world driven by greed and questionable morals. Markets are volatile and easily manipulated, meaning that crypto villains will always be present in some way, shape, or form.
Why This Matters
History doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes. Recognizing the similarities that repeat in crypto villains is a good way of recognizing which of our glittering heroes might be the next to show their true colors and tarnish crypto’s good name.
Both Sam Bankman Fried and Do Kwon have been arrested and held in detention facilities. SBF is awaiting trial, while Do Kwon must serve his sentence in Montenegro before being extradited to stand trial in the U.S. and South Korea.
If the crypto community is talking about Gary, they’re most likely referring to Gary Gensler, chairman of the United States Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC).
Despite what mainstream media might tell you, the crypto market is alive and kicking in 2023, with plenty of emerging projects and innovative new use cases.