Episode 104 – Did Satoshi run a drug cartel: The Paul Le Roux Story (feat. Evan Ratliff)

Did Satoshi run a drug cartel? The Paul Le Roux Story (Feat. Evan Ratliff) Crypto Critics' Corner

Cas Piancey and Bennett Tomlin are joined by Evan Ratliff to discuss Paul Le Roux, an international criminal who some believe may have been Satoshi Nakamoto.    We also discuss Evan's new podcast Persona, and the similarities between the crimes of Gilbert Chikli and cryptocurrency hacks and scams. Additional resources: Persona podcast The Mastermind Vanish for one month  This episode was recorded on October 18th, 2022.

Cas Piancey and Bennett Tomlin discuss the recent spate of auditors leaving crypto, some strangeness around Binance, and whether or not the rest of the ecosystem is still teetering on collapse, or if it has improved.

This episode was recorded on October 18th, 2022.

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English Transcript:

00:00:05:05 - 00:00:11:23
Cas Piancey
Welcome back, everyone. I am Cas Piancey and I'm joined, as usual by my partner in crime, Mr. Bennett Tomlin. How are you today?

00:00:11:27 - 00:00:13:07
Bennett Tomlin
Well, I'm doing well, Cas. How are you?

00:00:13:10 - 00:00:24:04
Cas Piancey
I'm doing fine, except for a little construction work still going on here. But we are joined by a fantastic guest today, someone we've been trying to have on the show for a long time now, Mr. Evan Ratliff. How are.

00:00:24:04 - 00:00:29:21
Evan Ratliff
You? I'm doing well. I got a leaf blower out here, so I'm bringing some sound problems to the party too.

00:00:29:21 - 00:00:38:20
Bennett Tomlin
We're all professional podcasters. Just to be clear, all three of uson this call, know what we're doing.

00:00:38:20 - 00:00:59:28
Cas Piancey
That's very convincing when you're shouting it at the top of your lungs. Anyway, Evan has done a ton of work that Bennett and I are both have been fascinated by for a very long time. He is doing a podcast right now called Persona. It's fantastic. We urge everybody to check that out. It's about Gilbert Chikli, we'll get into that a little bit later.

00:00:59:28 - 00:01:12:01
Cas Piancey
He also wrote a wonderful book called The Mastermind about Paul Le Roux. And I think that's what we're actually going to start with right now. Can you start us off just maybe explain what the mastermind is about and who Paul Le Roux is?

00:01:12:15 - 00:01:46:19
Evan Ratliff
Yeah. So the book is about a large organized crime cartel that is was run by this guy named Paul Calder Le Roux. And so in some ways it's like a biography of Le Roux and in some ways it's about the way this type of organization operates. And the basics of it are that Paul Le Roux is a programmer who built this this network of online prescription pills sites in the early 2000s and what they sold predominantly, vastly more than any other prescription pill were painkillers.

00:01:47:03 - 00:02:25:10
Evan Ratliff
And they sold millions upon millions upon millions of painkillers entirely to the American market. It was kind of a genius system the way he set it up to sell these pills to American customers. And then he made a tremendous amount of money doing that, hundreds of millions of dollars. And he set up shop in the Philippines and then he sort of set about taking that basic prescription pill empire and transforming it into an organized crime group that was engaged in almost every type of crime that you can imagine, including large scale narcotic dealing like cocaine, methamphetamines, weapons dealing.

00:02:25:20 - 00:02:35:00
Evan Ratliff
There was obviously at some point violence and murder involved in protecting these assets, gold dealing, illegal timber, everything you can think of. He got into.

00:02:35:01 - 00:02:37:16
Cas Piancey
Piracy. They were trying to do piracy.

00:02:39:08 - 00:02:40:15
Evan Ratliff
That he wanted to do at all.

00:02:41:05 - 00:03:00:09
Cas Piancey
Yeah, it's truly an incredible story. But the reason that I was attracted to it ultimately was because at the time that I got involved in cryptocurrency, there was this suggestion that, well, no one knows who Satoshi Nakamoto is. We still don't know who it is. There's largely the belief that it's Hal Finney at this point, but really nobody knows.

00:03:00:16 - 00:03:07:29
Cas Piancey
And one of the candidates essentially is Paul Le Roux. So can you describe why he's a candidate for Satoshi Nakamoto?

00:03:07:29 - 00:03:28:15
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, I mean, it definitely depends on who you ask. So I should say first, like when I was reporting the books, I reported the book over five years. At some point along the way, I began to believe that he was Satoshi, and I never found anybody who said anything about it. So I spent a lot of time during the book trying to figure it out, couldn't come up with anything.

00:03:28:27 - 00:03:44:12
Evan Ratliff
So in the book I say, I looked into it. I spent many, many hours on it. I don't think it's him. Some of the pieces of evidence kind of surfaced online and people started taking them in their own directions. And in some cases they really latched on to them in ways that I had not latched on to them.

00:03:44:20 - 00:04:00:12
Evan Ratliff
The biggest one of which was that I got a hold of this fake passport that he had obtained, and the fake passport had the name Solotoshi on it. And it's very similar to Satoshi that hooked a lot of people initially. You know, that's.

00:04:00:12 - 00:04:17:00
Cas Piancey
Not the most compelling part to me personally, and maybe you disagree with me here, but like the most compelling part to me is the TrueCrypt part and the libertarian kind of racism and the way he felt slighted, he wasn't given anything. And I could imagine that making somebody very, very mad.

00:04:17:00 - 00:04:39:08
Evan Ratliff
I agree with you. What you're describing is probably the most compelling sort of set of evidence in his favor. But the passport, because the name is so close to Satoshi, that's the closest thing to like, evidence. Evidence. And there's sort of a difference here between evidence that matches up like he could be the guy and evidence that shows that he is the guy or it might not even be a guy.

00:04:39:09 - 00:04:58:06
Evan Ratliff
Like I mean, that's the funny thing. No one ever says that, but that's also like no one knows who it is. The passport that's kind of like got me back into it because I had originally thought, but I know he got the passport at a certain point and I talked to the guy who got it for him. It was like a fake passport that he paid a bunch of money for.

00:04:58:15 - 00:05:13:14
Evan Ratliff
And so when I talked to the guy, I was like, Where did this name come from? Did he tell you to put Solotoshi on it? And the guy was like, No, he didn't tell me to put Solotoshi on it. They picked that when I got the fake passport, but then I realized the timing works such that it could be that he got the passport.

00:05:13:14 - 00:05:29:14
Evan Ratliff
And then a couple of weeks later, that's when Satoshi first appeared. And so he's got this passport, it's got this name Solotoshi, maybe he's just like, I'm trying to make up a name for my new anonymous character. I'm going to use Satoshi. And then he just threw a Japanese name on it, and that's throwing people off this whole time.

00:05:29:29 - 00:05:49:15
Evan Ratliff
Anyway, that is kind of like the thing that drew me back into it. I think, as you say, the most compelling parallel similarity that's coincidental and seems like evidence is that he created this encryption software called E4M. He did it entirely on his own in secret, didn't tell anyone about it for the most part, and he did.

00:05:49:15 - 00:06:13:13
Evan Ratliff
It emerged and said, like, I have E4M, I developed it and he was really a forum guy. He was on forums, he was doing support. And there's a lot of parallels between how he did that and how Satoshi launched Bitcoin, including sending these emails that are very similar to previous people who had worked in the field and saying, Hey, I'm going to use a little bit of your engine or a little bit of your work.

00:06:13:26 - 00:06:35:09
Evan Ratliff
I'm going to credit you for it. How should I properly credit you? Which was very similar to what Satoshi sent. Like that is a very clear parallel. This is someone who could have done this. And then there's all these other things that libertarianism, his writings, there's the like Commonwealth, English, how you spell words and you could start to accrue enough of them that it's absolutely believable that it's.

00:06:35:22 - 00:06:52:14
Bennett Tomlin
One thing you mentioned there is that when you talk to like his cousin and some of these other people close to him, they had never heard of Bitcoin or heard him mention anything like that. Had they heard him mention Encryption For Masses or any of his other projects like that, or did he also keep those secret from people close to him?

00:06:53:08 - 00:07:08:14
Evan Ratliff
He didn't keep them secret. Everybody knew Paul was behind it for him like he announced it. It was a secret. He was working on it. But I'm not sure he kept it like truly secret. It was more like he wasn't collaborating with anyone. The people I was talking to, many of them, they were like not even familiar with his technical work.

00:07:08:16 - 00:07:25:24
Evan Ratliff
To them, he was in this case like my cousin, but also like he runs a giant drug cartel. That's what they knew about it. He's a genius. He runs a giant drug cartel. And I went back to still other people who I thought might know. A couple of them said things like, Yeah, he talked about digital currency one time and then someone else said, Yeah.

00:07:25:24 - 00:07:42:05
Evan Ratliff
He said, If I really want to be independent or something of this nature, like I have to develop my own currency like North Korea. But then you're interviewing them in hindsight, you know, they kind of know what I want to hear. Mm hmm. I didn't take that as, like, strong evidence.

00:07:42:09 - 00:07:55:13
Cas Piancey
Can we actually delve into a bit of why he went from essentially developing encryption software to being a drug kingpin and how that transition occurred? Why that transition?

00:07:56:27 - 00:08:17:13
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, I mean, both the how and the why I have to say, like there's still like a little bit of a mystery there. You know, we can speculate different ways. And of course, I've interviewed a lot of people who have different views on why he got into things, but essentially he created it for him. And then there was a company that wanted to commercialize it and he basically signed on with this company to try to commercialize it.

00:08:17:17 - 00:08:35:08
Evan Ratliff
They got into a dispute. He believed, I think, that he got screwed, that he never made anything for it. He kind of soured on open source software in some of the forums and said like, look, I thought this was supposed to somehow benefit me and it never did. And I've spent all these hours on it. And then TrueCrypt emerged.

00:08:35:13 - 00:08:50:10
Evan Ratliff
And so that was not clear. That was a challenger to what they were doing. Maybe he was behind it. It's sort of a big mess. But then the thing that was clear was he wanted to make a lot of money and he had not done so. And he felt like, I think at that time, programmers were starting to make a lot of money in the tech industry.

00:08:50:16 - 00:09:11:10
Evan Ratliff
He was not making a lot of money and he got into online pills. There's a couple different theories about how he did. He was interested in online gambling as well, and he sort of came up with this system with a couple of other people involved that was perfect for mass distribution of painkillers. This was going to be the way he was going to like, make his fortune.

00:09:11:15 - 00:09:19:08
Evan Ratliff
And I think he knew pretty quickly that that he was going to succeed at that like it. The signs were there from the very beginning that this was like an extremely lucrative thing to be doing.

00:09:19:21 - 00:09:36:20
Bennett Tomlin
Can you talk a little bit about what the RX limited system looked like? Because it's fascinating to me, like how it was at the beginning, almost legitimate and like how he got all these doctors and pharmacies to sign on. So can you talk a little bit about what that looked like and how it functioned?

00:09:36:20 - 00:09:59:15
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, I mean, it was a real gray area at the time. Even throughout a lot of it, it was a gray area of the law. So essentially what he did was he recruited American doctors and American pharmacists into a network. He built all the technical infrastructure. He created websites that would market these drugs. I mean, at one point, he was responsible for huge percentages of spam on the Internet.

00:09:59:20 - 00:10:17:22
Evan Ratliff
He was responsible for over half of prescription drug sites on the Internet were actually Paul Le Roux. He was setting up thousands of thousands of them. But what happened was they would, you know, recruit a doctor and a pharmacist. And when someone bought from the website, their order would go to a doctor in the U.S. who had signed onto the system.

00:10:17:22 - 00:10:45:26
Evan Ratliff
They would go to the system, look up this order and write them a prescription. And then the prescription would be transferred to an American pharmacy where the pharmacist would say, oh, legitimate prescription, okay, the pharmacist would use a FedEx number provided by our Rx Ltd to then ship the drugs directly to your home. So your different website, they show up at your door a few days later and the people in between had varying degrees of culpability in the legality or illegality of it.

00:10:45:26 - 00:11:06:18
Evan Ratliff
And in fact, several of the doctors who took it to trial were not convicted. They were found innocent because these were not scheduled drugs. This was not OxyContin. These were lesser known painkillers like Tramadol, which is highly addictive, has the same many of the same properties, but they hadn't scheduled it yet. So that's what made the gray area.

00:11:06:27 - 00:11:20:29
Evan Ratliff
And really what made it illegal was the volume that they were doing it. I mean, you've got doctors who are writing thousand prescriptions a day, you know, like that can't be right. Everyone knows that that can't be right. But it wasn't like, strictly speaking, illegal.

00:11:21:13 - 00:11:39:10
Cas Piancey
Yeah, in that sense it was quite brilliant of him. And it does have like such a joker energy to me or or something like he felt slighted by this community. He decides like, I'm going to make my money and get back at all these people who ignored me and I'm going to prove them wrong. Then he like succeeds.

00:11:39:10 - 00:11:51:21
Cas Piancey
It's very, very interesting and so reminiscent of so much that we see in cryptocurrency continually. Like still to this day, most of the people who are big names in the community have similar traits to this dude.

00:11:52:00 - 00:12:22:03
Evan Ratliff
Yeah. And also people in the aboveboard tech community, you know, he always seems so similar to me, to Zuckerberg, to Musk. I mean, his story parallels Elon Musk story like quite closely, like he's South African, you know, and was a kid who got really into programing and like that was his way in the world and he's really kind of like doing the same stuff on the other side of the law that a lot of these folks are doing, you know, lawfully.

00:12:22:10 - 00:12:41:11
Evan Ratliff
You may not think it's good for society. That's a different question. But people would ask me these questions like, why did he keep going? He made hundreds of millions of dollars. Why is he getting into like meth trafficking from North Korea? Why is he setting up a compound in Somalia? And the question is like, why is Mark Zuckerberg still going into Facebook every day?

00:12:41:11 - 00:12:55:20
Evan Ratliff
Like, what does he want? He has more money than you could ever spend. He's built a thing. Why is he still doing it? And the answer is kind of the same. Like it's the same for both him. Paul, you wanted to be the biggest criminal on the planet. That's what he wanted. And he set about trying to achieve that.

00:12:55:20 - 00:12:57:13
Evan Ratliff
And I would argue you possibly did.

00:12:58:04 - 00:13:23:00
Bennett Tomlin
What you mentioned there is like striking to me now because we've seen this like modern explosion in telemedicine and like with some of these places even operating in controlled substances, I'm thinking of like clear done the companies that are specializing in like providing a schedule 2 medications for like ADHD and stuff. After brief video consultations, all of you ended up doing a number of vastly criminal things.

00:13:23:00 - 00:13:51:25
Bennett Tomlin
But like, as we mentioned, the idea itself and even the initial implementation wasn't like clearly very illegal. And even in your book, you profile how some of the doctors actually would take the time to try to review each questionnaire and would even occasionally reject some of the questionnaires. Now, other doctors used the accept all button and did not do that, but there was kind of some people who actually saw this as like a legitimate and different model for medicine that Paul Le Roux was enabling.

00:13:51:25 - 00:14:03:07
Bennett Tomlin
And so I think that kind of tension that you're getting at there, like how Paul has the personality traits of many of these people who we consider like legitimate successes, but ended up completely on the illegitimate side.

00:14:03:18 - 00:14:22:04
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, and that ties into the Satoshi stuff too. Again, like I'm not saying he is Satoshi, but I think it's not just like, Oh, this guy is a programmer who has the possibility to be him. And he also did some bad things and he was a drug dealer. He was in his way like a visionary. The telemedicine future, he absolutely saw that.

00:14:22:04 - 00:14:41:26
Evan Ratliff
Not only did he see it, he just built it entirely on his own. And when, you know, for instance, he would try to register domains, you know, and he was registering just like hundreds of domains. And then he just thought, well, if they penetrate that domain server, like, they're going to know who I am. So then he just set up his own domain server and like no one could get to him.

00:14:42:05 - 00:14:49:10
Evan Ratliff
It was all in the service of this system that, as you say, there are many systems that look like this now. They look extremely similar.

00:14:49:21 - 00:15:12:13
Bennett Tomlin
Yeah. And he creates his own domain registrar. He sets up his own email services. He starts having his entire workforce encrypt their computers using encryption software he built from scratch. He was much better at modeling the threats and understanding how to control, like the technical infrastructure to protect himself than basically any other criminal of this status I've seen.

00:15:12:15 - 00:15:31:15
Bennett Tomlin
Like taking those steps to try to insulate yourself and make it that much harder clearly benefited him. And then you're telling it like the DEA agents who were investigating this, they kept feeling like they were getting closer. And then Paul would shift to an email service he controlled, would start encrypting things, would close off areas of communication they were following.

00:15:31:17 - 00:15:46:06
Evan Ratliff
They never broke his encryption. They never got it to his server. They had to like put a computer in front of him and let him log into it. And I would say, arguably, they probably did not have the technical expertise to know what he did when he got in there, like he could have done any number of things.

00:15:46:06 - 00:16:00:05
Evan Ratliff
He had all kinds of self-destruct triggers set up like who knows what he actually did, what he logged in with them, watching him and thinking that they're controlling him. He did give them access to some of the emails, so they did get evidence from there. But like a lot of it was never, never recovered.

00:16:00:17 - 00:16:17:15
Cas Piancey
It's worth noting that he essentially almost got away with all of this stuff. Maybe I'm getting this wrong, but Evan, you can correct me, but I believe there's no proper extradition treaty between Brazil and the United States of America and or there was some sort of extradition treaty. And if you had a child in Brazil, you could avoid being extradited.

00:16:17:15 - 00:16:38:13
Cas Piancey
And so he had a child in Brazil. I bring this up because you yourself tried to disappear. This was back in, I believe, 2009. You wrote an article for Wired called Vanish for one month. Evan Ratliff shed his identity and tried to disappear. Here's what happened. And also gone forever. What does it take to really disappear? You didn't succeed.

00:16:38:13 - 00:16:50:17
Cas Piancey
So I'm wondering I'm wondering if you could just kind of discuss why you didn't succeed and if you think maybe it's even harder now or if it's easier, like what your thoughts are about that these days.

00:16:51:00 - 00:17:08:22
Evan Ratliff
You know, it was kind of meant to simulate someone who fakes their own death because that's what I was very interested in at the time. It's like you fake your own death. And then what? I had trouble finding a story that would capture that. And so I decided to do this first person thing, and we set up all these parameters around it and one of them was just that.

00:17:08:22 - 00:17:30:28
Evan Ratliff
It's very easy to disappear if no one's looking for you. So the idea was like, we would pay people, we would offer a reward for people to look for me. And that got a lot of people interested, including like professionals, private investigators, but also like groups of people who are organizing online. And it was eventually a group of nonprofit journal investigators like just people who organized originally on Twitter.

00:17:30:28 - 00:17:58:27
Evan Ratliff
Actually, Twitter was still pretty new then. It wasn't the cesspool that it is today. And they kind of like got together on Twitter. Then they moved to like increasingly private chats and they organized to figure out how to catch me very quickly. The way they caught me was they captured my IP address on Facebook, so they basically set up a honey trap on Facebook, a website about me that was contained within Facebook, which you could do at the time I visited that to see what they were up to.

00:17:59:08 - 00:18:16:20
Evan Ratliff
They found my IP address. So there were two challenges. One of them is like severing all ties with everything, just emotionally to your family, even for a short period of time I think was only a month. But like saying I am not going to contact that life at all. And then the other one is, where are you going to get money?

00:18:16:20 - 00:18:32:09
Evan Ratliff
You have to go get a job, get your Social Security number. You can't use your bank accounts. Cryptocurrency is is sort of an answer to that. But like in the early days where it was like anonymous currency, I was like, well, this is it. This is how you do it. You just put a ton of money into crypto and then you would like get it out on the other end.

00:18:32:09 - 00:18:50:27
Evan Ratliff
But like we all know that that is fool's errand at this point, both just like literally getting it out at all, but also getting it out in a way that you're not going to have to provide some sort of ID in order to do so or you can go to the more private coins and then it's like, am I going to lose all this money?

00:18:50:27 - 00:19:08:23
Evan Ratliff
Like, it's something that would require a lot of expertise. Of course you could do it, but now there is a better option when it comes to money. On the other hand, I mean, the amount of surveillance, of course, is just expanded massively. There's so many entry points for investigators. There is so much data that can be sucked up about you.

00:19:09:03 - 00:19:12:19
Evan Ratliff
I think it's harder now than it was then. I would say.

00:19:12:24 - 00:19:29:19
Cas Piancey
Even though there's all these obvious, like, oh, this person tried or this person tried and failed, this person tried and failed. Or maybe this person died and disappeared. And we don't even know that's issue. You could never possibly know all the successful stories that there are, even though it does feel like to me at least, that it's very, very, very difficult.

00:19:29:29 - 00:19:49:15
Cas Piancey
And on top of that, if anyone is looking for you in any real capacity, it becomes almost impossible to successfully disappear. Even people like Joe Lo, who stole billions of dollars from Malaysia. But he just is existing in China. Now, there's no mystery about it. That's where he is. He's doing fine. There's ways to disappear without actually disappearing.

00:19:49:15 - 00:20:03:00
Cas Piancey
Now, maybe, as is what I'm saying, the similar to like what Paul Le Roux did where it's like, yeah, I'm in Brazil, but good luck getting to me. Maybe that's like the easier way to do it now. Maybe that's the actual way to disappear in air quotes.

00:20:03:14 - 00:20:25:08
Evan Ratliff
Yeah. If you have enough money, there's a lot that you can do. You know, if you're just a vastly wealthy individual, however you've gotten that money, you've got a lot of options. Also, you can set up a lot of things in advance. I mean, we've seen recently people buying citizenship in various countries. That's a very if you've got enough money to pay, drop $1,000,000 on real estate in Portugal or whatever it is or Malta, you know, you can do that.

00:20:25:18 - 00:20:43:03
Evan Ratliff
But for ordinary people, you're really up against it because you've got to have planned out how you're going to survive in this new identity. I mean, the problem with most of these fake death stories is that people don't plan it out like they do it on an impulse. They're like running a Ponzi scheme and then the Ponzi schemes about to collapse.

00:20:43:03 - 00:20:57:20
Evan Ratliff
And then they say, Oh my God, I'm going to fake my death. I drive my car to the river, and then they'll think I jumped in the river. And then like three days later they're like, Oh, I don't have any money. I can't use my credit cards. You know, it's not all planned out. And they don't have billions of dollars hiding somewhere where they can kind of access it.

00:20:57:20 - 00:21:04:24
Evan Ratliff
So, I mean, I was trying to more represent that type of person. I didn't have the resources to like make things happen for myself.

00:21:05:03 - 00:21:40:21
Bennett Tomlin
Because there was kind of a point you made there that Paul Le Roux recognized regulatory arbitrage and like the existence of these varied extradition treaties is like a way to run these types of businesses well before. Like cryptocurrency companies have learned a little bit from that. And like you'll often see the executives for some of the less than sterling ones try to set up in places where they think it'll be difficult to extradite them and will like make sure their corporate registrations are in places that aren't tied to places like the United States, that actually enforce laws and will try to like take advantage of things like that.

00:21:40:21 - 00:21:59:05
Bennett Tomlin
And so we saw Paul Le Roux operating out of the Philippines and Somalia, and we see that now with cryptocurrency companies operating out of Malta and welll, previously, China out of all this. And so there's there's certainly kind of an echo, Paul Le Rouxrecognized the ability of that and cryptocurrency companies have learned since then.

00:21:59:19 - 00:22:29:04
Evan Ratliff
I mean, what Paul Le Roux did in the Philippines was he paid millions of dollars in bribes to law enforcement. I mean, literally straight to the judges, police generals had an ax like and by which the FBI, their guy basically on his staff that carried bags of money to people in order to bribe them. And that's the extreme version. The less extreme version is sort of setting up your operation in a place where the legal system is never going to be able to handle some kind of like cryptocurrency dispute.

00:22:29:05 - 00:22:36:00
Evan Ratliff
They're not equipped for that and you know that. And so, you know, unlike in the U.S., like, you're operating like in a little more of a protected environment.

00:22:36:11 - 00:22:50:26
Cas Piancey
Your most recent work persona, this podcast about Gilbert Chikle there's so many ties to what we regularly cover here on crypto critic's corner that I, I would love if you could expand on that a bit and then we're going to delve into the similarities.

00:22:51:09 - 00:23:15:16
Evan Ratliff
So Gilbert basically is a con man. He was born in France, but he moved to Israel, took Israeli citizenship. The thing he's originally famous for is inventing something called the president scam or at least pioneering something called the president scam, which is basically where you call up a mid-level person at a company and you say, I'm the boss of this company like I'm the CEO or the president.

00:23:15:16 - 00:23:32:29
Evan Ratliff
So it's called the president's scam. And there's going to be a secret project that you're going to get contacted for. We have a secret project going on. Usually it's like to stop money laundering or stop terrorists from using our bank or our company. You're going to hear from a secret agent and the secret agent who originally was also Gilbert.

00:23:32:29 - 00:24:02:03
Evan Ratliff
He would say we need to take money out of the bank and mark the bills so that when the terrorists come and take their money out of the bank, we'll know it's them. We'll give them that money. So he would over many days convince someone that they were part of this project, that they couldn't tell anyone. They could tell their family, they couldn't tell their their colleagues in his most famous case, his original success, he got this woman to bring hundreds of thousands of euros to a bathroom in a café in Paris and hand it to someone who knocked on the door and said a code word.

00:24:02:21 - 00:24:20:04
Evan Ratliff
And then he got into like having them transfer it rather than bring the cash. But that was the fundamental model was like first it's a high up person in the company who the mid-level person probably doesn't really know, but is has imbues with a lot of authority. You do what they say, then the secret agent and this became a model for scams.

00:24:20:04 - 00:24:35:24
Evan Ratliff
It's used all over the world. I mean, the variation on it is like the email business. Email compromise is kind of a variation on it and it's worth billions of dollars. So he did that and then he ran a different scam. Ten years later on, a bunch of very, very wealthy French speaking people.

00:24:36:03 - 00:24:54:27
Cas Piancey
These are affinity scams, right? I mean, these are essentially what he's doing is he's saying, I am an important person within this specific group of, let's say, a corporation, and you have to trust me. I'm your boss. I need you to work on this mission, which is just unreal. You think to yourself, like, how could anyone fall for this?

00:24:54:27 - 00:25:10:17
Cas Piancey
But then you hear you hear the story that you're telling in this in this podcast. And it's like, well, I mean, I guess I understand why someone would fall for it. Like, why would you have any reason to doubt that the president of the company is going to call you and be like, Hey, there's a money laundering issue.

00:25:10:17 - 00:25:34:00
Cas Piancey
We need somebody in the middle of the company to help take care of it. Don't tell anybody. It's very affinity, but also very like nuanced in a sense. But it devolves very quickly. The story starts getting into poker and the Israel and France and all of this craziness. My ears instantly were like, Whoa, I have heard this story so many times before then.

00:25:34:00 - 00:25:52:08
Cas Piancey
And I covered a company called Crypto Capital Corp and I ended up figuring out where these people who ran it. These were fugitives from U.S. prosecution. They had fled from anywhere where people knew. And I discovered one of them leaving Google reviews in Israel. And she, you know, just openly like, oh, I love this restaurant, I love this hotel.

00:25:52:08 - 00:26:15:09
Cas Piancey
And I was like, hey, you're on the hook for $800 million. Like, you're just chilling in Israel and it was like, yes, yes, she is. And Israel doesn't care. Like they're not sending her back to America to face justice. Like, no, that isn't what's going to happen. I assume her brother is there as well. And it's just like, Oh, okay, Israel doesn't give a shit, which is kind of like, I don't know, I don't even know how to feel about.

00:26:15:09 - 00:26:22:01
Cas Piancey
It's wild to me that such a tight ally is just like, Yeah, you know, fraud scams, whatever.

00:26:22:08 - 00:26:25:06
Bennett Tomlin
Well, and that's where Paul Le Roux in a bunch of his call centers, too.

00:26:25:06 - 00:26:50:20
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Paul Le Roux had a lot of stuff based in Israel, and a bunch of the Israelis were never extradited for crimes. I mean, there's a couple that are under indictment in the U.S., one of whom escaped from a halfway house and went to Israel and has never been brought back one of Larry's people. But when I interview, I interviewed a lot of Israeli police officials, ex police officials, and they would always say, everybody says we don't extradite people.

00:26:50:26 - 00:27:14:16
Evan Ratliff
We extradited this person, this person, this person, this person like they do extradite people. I think with these frauds and these scams. The tricky thing is, of course, that like the victims are not in Israel. And so there's not like a constituency for like really agitating for it except for this, like, intergovernmental relationship. In Gilbert’s case, they did extradite him.

00:27:14:16 - 00:27:28:00
Evan Ratliff
They extradite him to France. The French fucked it up, they let him out, and he just flew back to Israel. And then the Israelis were like, No, we're not going to do this again. Actually, the French, they even ask us, they were too embarrassed. But like the Israelis were like, You should.

00:27:28:00 - 00:27:32:14
Bennett Tomlin
They just forgot to take away his passport! They just forgot to take away his passport!

00:27:32:28 - 00:27:51:08
Evan Ratliff
Classic mistake. They spend years getting a guy investigated, years investigated, finally extradited. It's an incredibly arduous process. He arrives in France. They don't try him for like 18 months. And then they're like, well, now we going to let him out on house arrest. They just made him sign in at a police station. And then he just left.

00:27:51:15 - 00:28:12:06
Cas Piancey
The people who I was looking into as Yosef and Ravid. Yosef, they walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars. Sorry. Why exactly what Israel want to extradite these people. They have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend in Israel like they can't go anywhere else. Really. They have all this money there. I don't see what the reason would be that Israel would be like, all right, get on back to the U.S. now.

00:28:12:09 - 00:28:25:05
Cas Piancey
Look, it doesn't make any sense to me, but like you said, there's also this interstate like you would hope that Israel would be like, well, we know exactly where this person is and we're going to ship them back to you because we're friends. But I guess that's not enough.

00:28:25:05 - 00:28:38:26
Evan Ratliff
It's just it's a hard process. And like, they tend to focus on the murderers. And everyone would talk about between France and Israel, you know, it was all about these people who had killed someone. And those were like the big ones. And like someone who's committed a fraud, they're just like they're not high on the list. You know.

00:28:38:28 - 00:29:01:13
Cas Piancey
To me, this concept of like, well, financial fraud doesn't really harm people. I'm like, how can anyone argue that anymore? Like the amount of people that killed themselves because of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme or Enron or like any of these major gigantic frauds, like we understand that there's actually like levels of violence involved in these deceptions. And I think it's pretty silly to be like, yeah, it's just money.

00:29:01:14 - 00:29:04:04
Cas Piancey
It's like, no, no, no, no, no, no. It's not just money.

00:29:04:04 - 00:29:06:22
Bennett Tomlin
Well, and I think Madame Gee was a good example of that.

00:29:06:26 - 00:29:22:15
Evan Ratliff
The original victim of the the one who gave the money in the bathroom of the of the cafe, like it ruined her life. Like she lost her job at the bank. She was a bank manager. She became suicidal, she became homeless, and she eventually got herself back on her feet. But yeah, I know. I totally agree with you.

00:29:22:15 - 00:29:47:06
Evan Ratliff
I think part of the reason why we like live in a scam world today is that no one really takes it seriously at a small scale or a large scale. Not just think it's just about money, but like you're kind of responsible, like you fell for it, you know? I think that's the feeling. And part of what's interesting about trying to tell these stories is trying to get across the idea that like this can happen to you no matter who you are.

00:29:47:06 - 00:30:15:09
Evan Ratliff
And some of the victims later from basically were some of the wealthiest, supposedly most savvy people in the world, billionaires who lost tens of millions of dollars to someone who called them up on the phone and told them they needed money in this case to free hostages from ISIS. Like that was the scam. If someone has your number, if someone has the right information, if someone can really kind of convince you to like get on board in the first step, you'd be surprised what you could fall for.

00:30:15:16 - 00:30:55:03
Bennett Tomlin
And it struck me like before when you were talking about how business compromise email scams are basically a version of this a ton of the cryptocurrency exchange hacks we've seen are either publicly known as or privately whispered about as business email compromise scams like Bitstamp in their security report that was leaked after they got hacked, it talked about how the hacker was able to get a bunch of information about one of the executives started emailing with them from like a somewhat trusted location or something about fishing and about normal things like that until they eventually convinced them to open a file that had a compromise that was able to get them into the system because

00:30:55:03 - 00:31:19:08
Bennett Tomlin
they had built up this rapport with this high level executive who's been trained on phishing, who's been trained on like OPSEC and what to do to end up doing the same compromise. The 2016 Bitfinex hack was probably broadly similar in terms of how it was executed. The tendency to victim blame ends up ramming straight into the fact that many of these victims are people who were trained and knowledgeable and taught to do this and that.

00:31:19:08 - 00:31:24:11
Bennett Tomlin
Just many of us are way more vulnerable to social engineering than we are inclined to admit.

00:31:24:16 - 00:31:40:26
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, I agree with that. And I mean, the the solution to it is, is only to tell people about it. It was like, you know, psychically scammed. If you if you knew about it, you were less likely to fall for it, but not not entirely unlikely to fall for it. Like people who knew about it still fell for it.

00:31:41:03 - 00:32:08:28
Cas Piancey
Victim blaming is a very real thing, but it's not just victim blaming in this scam fraud financial thing. It's also this concept and I've discussed this with a lot of our guests. Let's educate people. Let's make sure people understand how these frauds and scams and all of this works. Like when people are promising you crazy interest rates don't just believe it, but so many people that we've had on here or on Twitter or anywhere suggest, like the only way to learn is to experience the scam yourself.

00:32:09:12 - 00:32:20:27
Cas Piancey
And until you experience the scam yourself, there really is no education for this kind of thing. I think your books and your your work does a very good job of actually educating people about this stuff. In some sense.

00:32:20:27 - 00:32:39:14
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, I don't think I mean, I don't think there's a good answer. I think that's the best answer. The best answer is you're trying to tell people when you go online, if something seems exceptionally good, you should cast doubt upon it. Like that's the only thing you can really do, you know, run some due diligence yourself, see how you could check it out.

00:32:39:26 - 00:33:02:26
Evan Ratliff
But that's still a losing endeavor. I mean, you're talking about a world in which, like anyone from any part of the world, can now scam someone else if someone's just really good at this, like basically they could just reach out and grab victims all over the world. Like that didn't used to be true. It's probably not possible to educate people to the extent that, like, no one will fall for these things, particularly because a lot of them are based on romance scams.

00:33:02:26 - 00:33:22:23
Evan Ratliff
Like What are you going to do? Make people not feel lonely, not pursue relationships online, you know, like you can't make everyone be suspicious about everything all the time. That's no way to live. So I think that's that's where we are trapped is like the scams are so profligate now, but also you can't really say like don't do anything online.

00:33:22:23 - 00:33:27:12
Evan Ratliff
Like there are people who do that. Of course, they're like, I don't do anything online. But that's not realistic either.

00:33:27:15 - 00:33:46:00
Bennett Tomlin
Like you mentioned, they're like because things have become so global, because it's so international now and we're all so connected that as we've kind of alluded to, makes it really hard to even pursue the people who commit these things in both the pull of your case with the DEA and in the Sheeba case with the French investigators, they understood like the scam.

00:33:46:00 - 00:34:09:18
Bennett Tomlin
They understood what was going on. They understood the crimes and even the criminal. But because of like the challenges of actually pursuing international like law enforcement cases, it took so long for them from when they had like identified what was going on until they were actually able to bring indictments, get people arrested and do any of that the other side, besides the education, potentially going after the people who do it, but going after the people who do it.

00:34:09:18 - 00:34:24:14
Bennett Tomlin
Just such a challenging task when it's such a low barrier of entry for someone to start doing this. And it's so hard for law enforcement, for regulators, for whoever to actually go after and seize these people. And so it's just a really challenging problem.

00:34:24:27 - 00:34:40:10
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, I mean, that's what happens. Le Roux I mean, Le Roux was one of the most targeted people by the DEA. But even that, you know, when you see one case, you say, Oh, they went and got him. They set up a big sting operation. They lured him out of Brazil where he was hiding, and he'd had this child to try to avoid extradition.

00:34:40:10 - 00:34:56:01
Evan Ratliff
They lured him to Liberia and they had him arrested. But like, how many people are you going to do that for? Like, it's a huge operation. It required an informant. It was dangerous for that and for many could have been killed. The Americans are the only ones who can do this. No one else really has the capacity to do it.

00:34:56:01 - 00:35:14:07
Evan Ratliff
A couple other countries do it a little bit, but do you want the U.S. to just be like a global police force that's running sting operations in countries all over the world? I mean, they are when it comes to drugs, is that what we want? Is that what we are paying for? Like, that's a big question that no one really asks.

00:35:14:07 - 00:35:24:24
Evan Ratliff
You know, we want the people caught. But then if you look at what it would take to catch all the people, that they definitely know where they are and what they're doing, it would be enormous outlay of resources.

00:35:25:01 - 00:35:45:27
Cas Piancey
There's somebody named Do Kwon, I'm sure you're familiar from your show. Yeah, there you go. So the creator of Luna and Tara, we've discussed him at length, but he had an Interpol red notice put out for him. He is wanted by the South Korean government. No one wants anything more than to get their hands on him, to bring him to justice.

00:35:46:06 - 00:36:04:26
Cas Piancey
And yet he's gone. No one can tell you where he is exactly. He's not in Singapore. He's not in South Korea and he's not in the U.S. That's what we do know. But he could be literally anywhere else in the entire world. And there's nothing anyone can do about it. And it's exactly what you're talking about. Like the only way to get this guy would be to do a giant sting operation.

00:36:04:26 - 00:36:21:15
Cas Piancey
And I'm sure especially right now, this guy is on his toes like he's not going to fall for anything. I just don't know how you could ever possibly do that for these hundred thousand, 150,000 more criminals who are doing financial fraud and all this other stuff, like it's incredible numbers and there's no way you could actually do it.

00:36:21:18 - 00:36:38:28
Evan Ratliff
I haven't written about any crypto scams, like I haven't reported on any. Like I've learned something from watching a show or listening to your show, which I like. Crypto is such a scam rich environment and they're so kind of like straightforward. If you look at them, a lot of them, they're just like, I have a thing and I'm going to tell you it's going to be worth more and more money.

00:36:38:28 - 00:36:55:17
Evan Ratliff
So you should buy it now and then, like now I'm gone. They're very like simple Ponzi schemes or the hack and steal kind of ones. There's so many of them that I don't know how law enforcement could possibly get a handle on them at this point. Like, how could you triage the number of scams that have taken place?

00:36:55:17 - 00:37:16:14
Cas Piancey
But also a thing that I really loved from Persona was that you specifically said that this scam brought out the art in Con Artist, even though it was so simple, it was like sophisticated and beautiful in a sense. It's made me start rethinking all of these scam artists and crypto where I'm like, I don't respect them, but I do respect their work con artists.

00:37:16:21 - 00:37:35:09
Evan Ratliff
They're really like storytellers, like they tell you a story that includes you. So in this case, it's like it makes you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself. And that's very, very hard to resist. We're all living our lives, and then someone drops into our life and they tell us, you're important. Sometimes there's not even greed involved.

00:37:35:09 - 00:37:47:11
Evan Ratliff
Like the people don't stand to make any money. And basically is they didn't. It was just like, we'll know that you helped our nation stop these terrorists and that was all it took. In a sense. It's like an incredibly creative endeavor.

00:37:48:00 - 00:38:12:18
Cas Piancey
The other thing I noticed, as I discussed with Bennett that I only recently started realizing seems to run pretty fluidly through all of these incredible stories of fraudsters in finance is how they all play poker. Like, poker is such a running theme in this. And I was like, What is that? Then it was like, to get good at poker, you have to be a good liar.

00:38:12:26 - 00:38:13:27
Cas Piancey
And I'm like, Yeah.

00:38:14:06 - 00:38:31:13
Evan Ratliff
Poker comes up in persona and I did like spend some time trying to answer this question. In fact, I talked to a journalist friend of mine, Keith Romer, who, like reports on poker a lot, and he also plays poker. And this was the question that I wanted to answer. I was like, all these guys play poker, so what is the reason?

00:38:31:13 - 00:38:49:15
Evan Ratliff
And eventually we kind of talked it out and there's sort of two sides to it. One is playing high stakes poker in private rooms is like a pretty good way to launder money. You could move your money through poker, but I think the bigger part of it is just personality based. It's just psychology based. The kind of person who is pulling off scams.

00:38:49:25 - 00:39:10:03
Evan Ratliff
Those are very, very high stakes endeavors. And they are drawn to the adrenaline of almost losing every time, you know, almost getting caught. I mean, in this story, there were scammers who were not actually good at poker. Mostly, they wanted to play in the highest stakes games. And they lost like leg. They lost a bunch of money. But I think it was the feeling of it, of the adrenaline, you know.

00:39:10:15 - 00:39:33:18
Bennett Tomlin
What you said? They're, like, striking to me because I was remembering from Persona when Shelby was called back up, someone he had just skimmed and said, Google my name plus scam and see what comes up. At a certain point, he was like, This is too easy. I shouldn't be getting any more. Like, wanted to make it so it was harder for himself, wanted to make it so there was like a chance he could get caught.

00:39:33:21 - 00:39:43:01
Bennett Tomlin
That echoes that this is like a form of thrill seeking, that this is about the adrenaline rush from it, rather than like actually getting the reward the money, the power, whatever.

00:39:43:06 - 00:39:44:00
Evan Ratliff
Yeah, absolutely.

00:39:44:10 - 00:40:08:01
Cas Piancey
What I found interesting was your take on how much trust is involved in poker, which is not something I generally think about either, though hand over $100,000 to another player just on a whim. Right? It's just like, here you go, man. I'm going to. Yeah. You need $100,000 to buy back in right now. Sure. No problem. And I was like, that is like catnip for financial scammers in a sense, even though I love it, it's like a cesspool.

00:40:08:01 - 00:40:20:23
Evan Ratliff
Well, there's one part I would disagree with there, which I think I think you have to distinguish a little bit between sort of mainstream high stakes poker, like there's a whole circuit and community of those people accept that some of them are genius level poker players.

00:40:20:23 - 00:40:36:20
Cas Piancey
They are, but they almost all have also been involved in things like poker, Black Friday, all this like shady online poker dealings that they absolutely were a part of. And it's been put to bed now and we just move on with our lives and I think there's a lot of that.

00:40:36:22 - 00:40:55:24
Evan Ratliff
Yeah. And I mean, my question, my kind of hilarious in hindsight question, it was sort of like, why are they letting these scammers into these like high stakes poker? Like these guys are losers. Like, why are they letting him in to these games in Vegas? The answer was because they're losers. Like that's they're losers like they bring a bunch of money and lose it to us.

00:40:56:21 - 00:41:12:22
Evan Ratliff
They will be welcome any time. So they're sort of like they're the rubes. They're, you know, so their reputation, who cares if it's tarnished, they cheat, they do whatever people let them back in because they just bring a bunch of money. But like the real players, it's more like self-regulated where people don't want to be known as cheats.

00:41:13:05 - 00:41:16:15
Bennett Tomlin
Didn't Paul Le Roux try to launch some online gambling sites?

00:41:16:18 - 00:41:37:17
Evan Ratliff
He looked into it and there's different stories about it. There's one guy who had a whole elaborate story that he had gone to Costa Rica and met with this lawyer to set up this gambling site. And like actually this ties back into the Satoshi stuff, both because like I kept looking for some kind of liberty reserve connection that would really tie Paul to Eagle and then they would make sense that he got into it.

00:41:37:23 - 00:42:02:01
Evan Ratliff
And I never really found it, but there was this other kind of coincidence where part of the original Bitcoin software which got commented out of the software of the code, there was a little poker playing engine built in there. And Paul supposedly also builds an engine and it's like, okay, well yeah, sure. A lot of people could build a poker engine, but it was another one of those.

00:42:02:01 - 00:42:09:09
Evan Ratliff
Like, they start piling up and you're like, How many of these things are we going to have before we say, It's probably him?

00:42:09:09 - 00:42:25:11
Bennett Tomlin
How many experts, C++ programmers are there who are also knowledgeable enough in cryptography to design the whole keypair system and to create a poker engine? Just because just in the code, because you think it might someday be useful, that's a much smaller set.

00:42:25:22 - 00:42:45:05
Evan Ratliff
That's where it all fell down, though. Was your question. How many are there? If we said, okay, the universe of these people is ten, I'd put all my money on Paul. University of those people is 100. It's different if it's a thousand. If it's 10,000, you're like, What are we doing here? Like, Yeah, okay, maybe it's him. There's a lot of coincidences, but it's probably not him.

00:42:45:15 - 00:43:03:12
Evan Ratliff
What I always wanted and still want is evidence. Like, I don't know if anyone to believe it at this point, but there is something out there that will tie someone more specifically to it. If it is Paul, I think that thing exists. I haven't been able to find it and now people are bringing me all kinds of like faked examples of it.

00:43:03:12 - 00:43:06:06
Evan Ratliff
So I'm not even sure I could find at this point what.

00:43:06:06 - 00:43:08:10
Bennett Tomlin
Faked examples are. People bringing.

00:43:08:10 - 00:43:35:08
Evan Ratliff
As you can imagine, because I wrote about Paul and Satoshi, like I get a lot of people, people who are like, No, this guy is Satoshi. Here's all my evidence, whether it's one of the original candidates, like how any or it's someone new they think it is. I'm also contacted by people who say, like, I know it's Paul and one source in particular provided me with signed messages from one of the early blocks.

00:43:35:16 - 00:43:58:04
Evan Ratliff
So first 100 blocks, signed messages that implicate Paul in being Satoshi very directly. And the messages are real like they're signed messages. You can go check like I checked it out. They're real. Like that part of it is very, very difficult to fake like a faked side message. So for a while I was like, Wow, this is it.

00:43:58:22 - 00:44:19:03
Evan Ratliff
But the problem is those blocks, no one knows who controls them. It's very, very difficult to backdate the signed messages to figure out exactly when they're sent. So obviously, if someone owns this block and they sent the signed message like two weeks ago, Paul Le Roux is Satoshi. And then they contacted me and were like, Look, look, this sign message, the message would check out, but it's not dated.

00:44:19:14 - 00:44:39:11
Evan Ratliff
So it's difficult to say like when it was sent. So then when I consulted with people who were more expert than myself, they were like, Well, who controls this? Who controls the keys to these anymore? Like we know who controlled them at the beginning if they sent the message at that time. Absolutely. 100% proof it's him. But the keys could have been transferred.

00:44:39:11 - 00:44:54:21
Evan Ratliff
Keys were stolen, keys were lost. We have no idea who controls those. There are also now people out there who want it to be Paul for their various reasons. And so I thought I had it there for like a day. And now I'm pretty convinced that they're, they're fake.

00:44:54:25 - 00:45:11:21
Bennett Tomlin
But it was from a known Satoshi address, or was it just from an early block? Because like we know, the first nine blocks were all Satoshi. But after that, like with the first transaction to help finish in block nine, we start seeing other people come online. And so was it just someone with an early block or was it from like the list of known Satoshi addresses?

00:45:12:03 - 00:45:22:04
Evan Ratliff
It wasn't from one of the Satoshi addresses. If it's from the stolen, that would have been, I feel like also definitive. But it wasn't from one of the Satoshi addresses. I was like, Oh, we can figure out when a signed message was sent, but you can't.

00:45:22:05 - 00:45:29:29
Bennett Tomlin
But if you knew who the person was who supposedly controlled that address, they could sign another message proving they still control the keys.

00:45:30:06 - 00:45:31:27
Evan Ratliff
If that person was alive. Yes.

00:45:33:09 - 00:45:35:08
Bennett Tomlin
Yes, yes. That can complicate things.

00:45:35:20 - 00:45:39:02
Evan Ratliff
If the person is not alive, we're in a bind. That's where I think that.

00:45:39:04 - 00:45:45:04
Bennett Tomlin
Does make that that that makes it much harder for them to prove they control the keys.

00:45:45:04 - 00:46:00:23
Evan Ratliff
But my overall point is that there's there's like so much stuff swirling around this, there's like at least five or more documentaries that have contacted me that are specifically like, who is Satoshi documentaries? It makes me feel like, I don't know if we'll ever we'll ever know.

00:46:00:23 - 00:46:09:00
Bennett Tomlin
There are people forging evidence. Craig Wright is actively forging evidence, including doing fake block signings using modified software.

00:46:09:16 - 00:46:10:13
Evan Ratliff
You said it, not me.

00:46:11:00 - 00:46:24:20
Bennett Tomlin
The court said the courts said they were forgeries. To be clear, that is not a libelous statement. It is in the public record. That is evidence he submitted were forgeries. That's in the court's record. That is not libel.

00:46:24:20 - 00:46:33:04
Cas Piancey
Did you think it was interesting, Evan, that Paul, when he was up for parole, said he was going to start a Bitcoin business?

00:46:33:04 - 00:46:52:16
Evan Ratliff
Wow. Yeah, that was at his sentencing. So the question in sentencing was, when you return to society, how will you be a productive member of society? And he said, I'm going to start a Bitcoin business. And there's a lot of different ways to read that. I mean, one way is like he's Satoshi and he's going to start a Bitcoin business.

00:46:52:16 - 00:47:12:14
Evan Ratliff
It's like a cover for him, just finally, like recovering all of the billions of dollars that he has access to. But it seems strange like that's a strange thing to assert if you are in fact Satoshi, part of it could be like by that point he heard people had said he was Satoshi and he's just messing with them like he could be in prison 20 years.

00:47:12:14 - 00:47:31:20
Evan Ratliff
So maybe he's just fucking around. And part of it is maybe he's like, I'll capitalize on the fact that people think that I'm Satoshi, so I will start a Bitcoin business and like I'll get tons of clout and and attention and money for it because people think that I'm actually Satoshi. A final theory is like when he got out of prison, that's absolutely what baller would get into.

00:47:31:20 - 00:47:50:23
Evan Ratliff
So it makes sense that he would choose that. It was weird that he suggested that to a judge as This is how I will be a productive member of society because like a federal judge is not going to they're just not going to perceive it that way. Yeah, they're not going to hear that. It's like I'm going to, you know, work at a bank.

00:47:50:23 - 00:47:56:17
Evan Ratliff
They would probably like. That's exactly the kind of thing you shouldn't get into, sir.

00:47:56:17 - 00:48:06:10
Bennett Tomlin
I'm going to advance this anti-state currency via my business, which I intend to operate internationally. This shouldn't concern you at all.

00:48:06:10 - 00:48:09:23
Evan Ratliff
But I wanted to ask you guys like, do you guys think it matters who it is?

00:48:10:06 - 00:48:32:06
Cas Piancey
The important part is that there's mystery and we don't know who it is and that this first coins never move. If that remains the case, I think it's great for Bitcoin. I think as soon as we know, if we ever were able to find out who it was and he or she or they were able to move those million bitcoins, that might be the end of Bitcoin for good.

00:48:32:09 - 00:48:35:14
Cas Piancey
Who knows? But I would it would be really bad news for Bitcoin.

00:48:35:27 - 00:49:10:26
Bennett Tomlin
I would love nothing more than the day after Paul finally gets released from prison. We see like a million based bitcoins from the first day work start moving and getting deposited into some exchange or something. Just because the pure chaos of that would be devastation across the industry. And I think Cas is right. The best case scenario for Bitcoin is, is for there to be at least some ambiguity because it allows Satoshi to act as this kind of messianic figure in the Bitcoin religion where they created this thing and that it was this almost immaculate conception.

00:49:10:26 - 00:49:37:17
Bennett Tomlin
And if you like, look at the blocks, you can see like Satoshi was very carefully like keeping their hashrate at a certain level and trying to make sure other people could competitively mined and start doing it and things like this, having that and then having this mysterious figure who disappears, weird right as it was starting to get like the tiniest bit of traction lets bitcoin exist in a more substantially decentralized way than it can with like a central figure who controls 5% of the total supply.

00:49:38:00 - 00:49:56:22
Bennett Tomlin
And the other flipside is for Coinbase, when they're going in to talk to the CFTC and the SEC and congresspeople, it's a lot easier for them to talk about Bitcoin if they don't need to explain that it was started by a racist, sexist leader of a drug cartel just saying it was this person. No one knows. Let's you can't remove there.

00:49:56:22 - 00:50:06:05
Bennett Tomlin
And even if you should say bitcoin should be separate from its creator. The reality is if Paul Le Roux is behind Bitcoin, that is going to color perceptions of bitcoin.

00:50:06:11 - 00:50:26:27
Cas Piancey
If it was to be Hal Finney instead who has passed away, I do think it would be bad because now you have some of the mystery disintegrate and you know exactly who the first person was. It wouldn't be as bad as Paul Le Roux because Paula is still living. Paul Le Roux can still move those coins. And Paul Le Roux, like you said, has a lot of horrible elements behind who who the man.

00:50:27:04 - 00:50:42:05
Cas Piancey
And the mystery is it is good for Bitcoin to not have an answer to that for as long as possible. I also think that if you're Satoshi and you are brilliant and a mastermind, as your book talks about Paul Le Roux, you would know better than to move those first coins.

00:50:42:07 - 00:51:03:18
Evan Ratliff
Well, the funny thing is like, if it is him, there's like an equal chance. Yeah, he could get out, move the coins, but also that he, like, wrote down the keys in some place that like his former henchmen, like, ransacked and were like, what is this? It just threw in the trash, you know, like he there's he hasn't moved.

00:51:03:18 - 00:51:09:12
Evan Ratliff
If it is him, he hasn't moved him yet. And so maybe he's waiting to get out or maybe he's like, he doesn't have the keys to it either.

00:51:09:22 - 00:51:28:27
Bennett Tomlin
That's certainly possible that like the keys are lost, that whoever Satoshi was, whether it was Paul, whether it was hell, whether it was Adam, whoever it might have been or whichever team of people it might have been, I think it's very plausible that the keys for those early blocks for the known Satoshi addresses are permanently lost, even if Satoshi is alive.

00:51:29:05 - 00:52:06:19
Bennett Tomlin
Just because key management is hard for people, especially when the keys are protecting something that is at the time valueless, right? Or has in some respects a negative value. Because having that proves you're the person started this. And so I think it's quite plausible whoever did it might have even intentionally destroyed or not kept the keys because having them would suggest to someone who came across them that you were responsible for creating this thing, which at the time even Satoshi noted, like when the WikiLeaks started accepting Bitcoin, like there was a risk of some serious like public perception or backlash to Bitcoin when it started to catch on.

00:52:06:28 - 00:52:11:17
Bennett Tomlin
So I think that yeah, it's very plausible that no one has those keys.

00:52:11:17 - 00:52:39:29
Cas Piancey
The last question I have for you, Evan, is you wrote the mastermind a little while ago. You've done persona and you've also done the longform podcast for an extended period of time now. And I'm wondering if you look at the realm we're in now and you yourself perceive podcast thing as a more viable option for you to tell these stories, or if you're instead thinking like, No, I will be writing persona in a book form as well.

00:52:39:29 - 00:52:44:07
Cas Piancey
Or like what your thoughts are on the changing landscape of storytelling.

00:52:44:07 - 00:53:14:03
Evan Ratliff
Perhaps for most of my career, I've been a freelancer. When you're independent, I feel like you just kind of develop this mercenary outlook. And my mercenary outlook is there's certain types of stories that I want to tell, and the form is important, but I'm open to like a variety of forms and you'll see a lot of journalists going from one to another now because there is more money in podcasting to do narrative than there was previously.

00:53:14:03 - 00:53:36:18
Evan Ratliff
And that's the kind of stories that I'm interested in, like these long, intricate stories that start from point A and end up at point B. Podcasting is a way to do it, but like books are still viable for individuals like me. It's a great situation. I should take that back. It's not a great situation, but it's like a better situation when there are these new venues that are interested in this type of story.

00:53:36:18 - 00:54:00:22
Evan Ratliff
So our podcast makers are very interested in this type of story for like the media as a whole, there's a larger question of like, is this a bubble? Is this viable? Like over the long term? Like where will podcasts end up? And there's so many podcasts, everybody else, podcasts, all that kind of stuff. Those questions are less important to me as a creator in that I just kind of like, Look where the money is and where the possibility is.

00:54:00:22 - 00:54:17:11
Evan Ratliff
And the journalists I respect and the editors that I want to work with and I kind of like sign on with them to do something and then if that thing goes away, I will now go over here and do it with these people. And so there's benefits and drawbacks to that as well. Like, I have no institutional security or backing in a general sense.

00:54:17:20 - 00:54:38:15
Evan Ratliff
I think it is like incredible the idea of telling these journalistic stories over multiple episodes in a narrative way. And now you see lots of examples of stories that might have been books or magazine stories ending up there. And I think that's been very good for the people who created them. I hope that continues. If that doesn't continue, all the people like me will like find some other medium to do it.

00:54:39:05 - 00:54:51:25
Bennett Tomlin
It's a very pragmatic answer to which medium you choose to tell your stories. Evan, do you have any parting thoughts for audience and can you let them know where to find you?

00:54:52:10 - 00:55:12:23
Evan Ratliff
We haven't really gotten into this aspect of it, but the through line for all these stories for me is partly about the people they have pulled into them, pulled in to participating in criminal activities, not even necessarily the people at the top, but all the people along the way. And the way that when you look at them from a distance, you say, Oh, look at those terrible people, those bad evil people doing that evil thing.

00:55:13:03 - 00:55:38:10
Evan Ratliff
The closer you get to it, the more complicated it gets. And the more you want more humanity, the more human it gets. The more you understand the motivations, the more you understand the mistake that someone can make in one moment, that then defines the rest of their life. And I feel like that's the thing I'm always chasing in these stories is trying to understand how these people kind of like fell into this world and how it relates to the choices that we also make or don't make around our own lives.

00:55:38:10 - 00:55:55:13
Evan Ratliff
So that that's to me, like the part that's interesting about these criminal networks in particular is they involve a bunch of people who are like operating at the fringes of this and never thought that they would get involved in it. And the question is like, why did they get involved in it? It's called Persona, The French Deception. The Mastermind is available in paperback.

00:55:55:13 - 00:56:01:09
Evan Ratliff
I'm on Twitter. If you want to look me up, I try to stay off there as much as possible, but you can still find me there. It's ev underscore rat.

00:56:01:21 - 00:56:06:29
Bennett Tomlin
It is a cesspool. Well, thank you very much for joining us.

00:56:07:15 - 00:56:11:07
Evan Ratliff
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I do really enjoyed it.

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