In a compelling documentary now available on Netflix Italy, titled “BitConned,” director Bryan Storkel delves into the intriguing narrative of the Centra cryptocurrency scandal. Contrary to the documentary’s name, BitConned doesn’t primarily focus on Bitcoin but instead brings to light the notorious Centra scandal, a precursor to the later FTX case.
The Rise and Fall of Centra: A Crypto Deception Unveiled
Centra, hailing from the remnants of a luxury car rental service in Miami, aimed to revolutionize the cryptocurrency realm. The founders, Robert Farkas, Sohrab Sharma, and Raymond Trapani, envisioned creating a new cryptocurrency and a platform, complete with a credit card, to seamlessly convert and spend cryptocurrencies in the real world. However, this ambitious idea turned out to be nothing more than a facade.
The Grand Illusion Unveiled
The documentary unfolds the intricate layers of deception woven by Centra from its inception. Much like the Theranos scandal, Centra’s promising concept masked a malicious intent to defraud investors. Unlike Elizabeth Holmes, who seemingly aimed to contribute positively, Trapani openly confessed in the documentary, “I wanted to become a criminal and get rich.” This revelation set the stage for a gripping tale of deception and financial misconduct.
Fictional Presidents and Faux Credit Cards
From the outset, Centra’s grand vision was riddled with falsehoods. The company claimed to offer a credit card adorned with the Visa logo, but Visa had no association with it, prompting them to demand the removal of their trademark. The founders’ LinkedIn profiles boasted fictitious educational and professional backgrounds, and even the company’s president, Michael Edwards, was a fabricated persona. Desperate to maintain the charade, the filmmakers reveal how they randomly selected a photo and name by Googling “old white guy” to create the illusion of a mature figurehead.
A Rollercoaster of Deceit: Centra’s Meteoric Rise and Fall
Despite the blatant deceit, Centra thrived in the cryptocurrency market, raising over $30 million in a matter of weeks from investors globally. High-profile endorsements from Paris Hilton, DJ Khaled, and Floyd Mayweather, coupled with an impeccably presented online presence, contributed to the scam’s success. However, the castle of lies began to crumble in 2017, as customer inquiries intensified. The eventual collapse occurred on October 27, 2017, with the publication of a damning exposé by The New York Times.
The Aftermath: Legal Consequences and Uncompensated Victims
Trapani’s arrest in April 2018 marked a turning point, exposing the depth of the deception that ensnared even his family. However, the documentary portrays an unexpected twist – Trapani’s current status as a free man, with an Instagram profile proudly proclaiming him as the “star of BitConned on Netflix.” Rumors suggest he is contemplating a new venture in the form of a loan agency.
While BitConned offers a riveting portrayal of the Centra scandal, it stops short of taking a definitive stance. Critics argue that the documentary, intentionally or not, serves as a “manual of the perfect con man.” As the narrative unfolds, the film subtly emphasizes the complexity of cryptocurrency investments and the innate human desire for financial gain, urging viewers to exercise caution in the ever-evolving world of cryptocurrencies. BitConned serves as a stark reminder that the allure of quick profits can lead down treacherous paths, especially in an industry notorious for scams and deceit.