Who is Crypto’s biggest conman?

Ed Ludbrook - Future of Crypto
4 min readNov 12, 2022

Conmen/women get ranked by the scale of losses of people who have been deceived.

Bernie Madoff is No1. Tens of billions off countless rich and poor. He lied. He conned people. The fact that he was a Wall Street grandee just meant the scale and duration of his scam were larger.

Until 2022, Ruja Ignatova was known as the biggest Crypto conman. Her OneCoin company took a few billion and she ran off with the cash in late 2017 having promised to build a global payments system.

Ironically the business model of the company was sound and copied by many companies subsequently, yet Ruja and partners conned/cheated investors of their money by stealing it. In crypto terms, it was the biggest ‘rugpull’. No-one feels for the investors as it was promoted as a highly speculative gamble.

The legendary scams of 2022

Following the crazy boom of 2021 came the scams of 2022. This year, three people have lined up for the award for the biggest conman.

  1. Terra/Luna’s Do Kwon. Luna ‘algo coin’ collapsed in early 2022 with losses of approximately $60bn of value losses.

The claims of ‘losing its USD peg’ as a failure of technology is clearly total bollocks. The coin was pumped by a programme whereby people would get 20% returns when everyone else cut their investment returns to 5% average.

The ‘pump’ was a cynical system to drive the Luna price rewarding current coin holders from the investments of new people. Textbook Ponzi. And the BS eventually caught up when the value was $60bn.

$60bn in real cash was not lost. More like $4–6bn of actual cash with the rest being ‘lost value’, ie if a billion dollars of investment in a company gets pumped to $10bil, only one billion in cash was lost with nine billion in ‘lost value’.

Forget all the excuses. Do Kwon knew what was pumping the coin price and that it was fraudulent. People lost billions in the scam and he needs to go to jail for 20 years as many people lost fortunes of their hard-earned money.

2. Alex Mashinsky, CEO of crypto lender Celsius, endlessly ridiculed banks as crooks yet positioned his company as ‘a bank’ to promote its security. Luna’s collapse helped pull the scab from the lie that was Celsius.

The company offered interest returns exceeding 15% that were obviously unsustainable and used to attract investments. He tried to claim his business model was just ‘smart’ yet his actual strategy was to invest in the most speculative investments. The market collapsed, the investments became illiquid and Celsius’s lie was revealed. The customers are unlikely to loose all their cash yet they will take a hit.

Let’s be clear Mashinsky misled its customers so he was running a scam. Final loses could be a couple of billion dollars. Mashinsky will hopefully go to jail as the conman he is. The unfortunate market conditions didn’t kill Celsius, he lied about what he was offering.

3. Sam Bankman-Fried allegedly took $4billion in his FTX’s customer funds and put it in his trading firm to cover losses in early 2022! He continued to used his customer funds on his businesses until the music stopped and he was missing an estimated $10billion.

Forget the ‘how/what/why’, he stole his customer’s funds to use them in a way that was irresponsible and hopefully illegal.

For all of 2022, he allowed the world to think he was the ‘next big guru’ when he knew his companies were in deep trouble. Remember he was in trouble at start of the year. He allowed new customers to join FTX and put their cash in which he then sent to cover loses.

Now he is trying this ‘oops, sorry, I made mistakes’ BS. His endless promises/lies follow. ‘FTX USA is fine’. Two days later ‘FTX US is in bankruptcy’.

There are no excuses. He is smart enough to know better. He is a $10bn conman and deserves to go to jail for the rest of his enjoyable life, ie 20 years.


Mashinsky — $2–4bn, Do Kwon — $4-6bn, SBF — $8–12bn.

Sam Bankman-Fried is officially the biggest conman in the history of crypto. Life imprisonment is only credible reward.

These conmen of 2022 are properly the worst of the latest boom. There are always a group in every super speculative boom. There will be a flurry of the good companies desparately proving to the world that they are acting properly.

Regulators/market will probably over-react to ‘protect’ investors which is irony as they can never protect people against these sort of conmen any more than the SEC was able to protect people against Madoff.

Last point. Conmen at this scale are always narcissists. Always secretive control freaks who mislead everyone. Unfortunately, they have a cadre of good people around them that had no knowledge of the scam yet have their lives severely damaged by these criminals. I feel for them as well.



Ed Ludbrook - Future of Crypto

I am Financial Futurist, Educator & Entrepreneur. Multi-million selling author in 20 languages. The Future of Crypto book coming.