Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own.

Ethereum, tZero advisor and CasperLabs, Alchemist co-founder Steven Nerayoff arrested for alleged extortion

shutterstock digital gavel crypto 450x250

Picture not described

It's amazing how one person can find the time to advise dozens of cryptocurrency projects.

Steven Nerayoff, who was involved with Ethereum early on, co-founded CasperLabs, founded Alchemist and acted as a paid advisor to tZero and many other cryptocurrency ICOs and startups, was arrested today and charged with extortion, according to the US Department of Justice, along with alleged accomplice Michael Hlady.

Note that all charges at this point are still allegations, and the DOJ stresses that defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. If convicted though, Nerayoff and Hlady each face up to 20 years imprisonment.

The unnamed victim company that brought the complaint forward is a mobile-oriented blockchain rewards company based in Seattle that hired Nerayoff as a paid advisor, which the Department of Justice says "specialises in generating user traffic to clients’ products by issuing its own cryptocurrency tokens as loyalty rewards."

Nerayoff has been involved, either directly or through his blockchain consulting firms, in a very wide range of projects.

Per the Alchemist website

Picture not described


(t)Zero to a hundred

"As alleged, Nerayoff and Hlady carried out an old-fashioned shakedown, to be paid off with 21st century cryptocurrency," said United States Attorney Richard Donoghue. "This Office and our partners at the FBI are committed to protecting businesses from extortion, whether the demands are for U.S. dollars or cryptocurrency."

According to the alleged victim's complaint, the initial agreement was for Nerayoff to help the company complete its ICO, originally planned for November 2017, in exchange for the astounding sum of 22.5% of all funds raised and 22.5% of the issued cryptocurrency tokens.

Then, just days ahead of the planned ICO, the DOJ alleges that Nerayoff almost doubled his fee from 17,000 ETH to 30,000 ETH, and threatened to ruin the ICO if the company didn't pay. It paid.

As the DOJ tells it, things only escalated from there. Nerayoff introduced the ICO to his partner Michael Hlady, who was going by the alias Michael Peters. Hlady introduced himself as a former member of the IRA (the Irish terrorist organisation, not the type of retirement account), the CIA and the FBI, who had at one point "taken down" a head of state.

In March 2018, Nerayoff allegedly demanded another 10,000 ETH from the company, with more threats to "destroy" it if his request was not met. Once again, the company paid.

Based on the description provided by the DOJ, the victimised company was a mobile-based crypto loyalty rewards company based in Seattle. It doesn't explicitly say it went ahead with the ICO in November 2017, but based on the descriptions it gives of the arrangement with Nerayoff (22.5% of the total being 17,000 ETH, etc), and the fact that it apparently had the funds to pay the alleged demands, one would think it would stand out as one of the larger ICOs at the time.

A cursory glance at the largest ICOs of November 2017, according to Coinist, does not immediately show any ICOs that fit the description.

Also watch

Disclosure: The author holds BNB and BTC at the time of writing.

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade. Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

Latest cryptocurrency news

Picture: Shutterstock

Ask a Question

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms Of Service and Finder Group Privacy & Cookies Policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Go to site