bitboy ben armstrong

With its streamlined curves and glow-in-the-dark sound system, the silver Lamborghini Huracán Performante was the stuff of teenage fantasy: $350,000 of aerodynamic metals and lightweight upholstery, packed into a taut and powerful body. Ben Armstrong loved it dearly.

When he started shopping for a Lamborghini, Armstrong, a cryptocurrency evangelist with more than 1 million YouTube subscribers, worried that he’d have to spend months searching. “I think I have to go to Italy to get the Lambo I want,” he texted a business partner. “I don’t want to compromise.” But fate smiled on him. In the fall of 2021, a car dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina, shipped the Huracán to Armstrong’s production studio in an Atlanta suburb.

As the Lamborghini was lowered from a delivery truck, Armstrong, better known by the nom de crypto BitBoy, let out a joyful laugh. “I may have shed a tear,” he said at the time.

Two years later, Armstrong, 41, has lost his production company and much of his wealth. His friends have turned on him, and his wife has filed for divorce. Over the past five months, across countless social media posts and videos, Armstrong has claimed to be the victim of a “criminal conspiracy” by “terrorists” who took over his YouTube channel. “BitBoy is dead,” he recently declared.

The trouble started in August when Armstrong was unceremoniously ousted from his company, HIT Network, by a group of his friends and business partners. Since then, the schism has expanded into a wide-ranging scandal: In court and on social media, the various antagonists have traded allegations of extortion, theft, sexual harassment and workplace violence. An extramarital affair has sparked particularly heated recriminations. And the Lamborghini is gone.

A Carefully Honed Pitch

Festive offer

Like any charismatic salesperson, Armstrong has a carefully honed pitch: He used to be just a regular guy, he likes to say, until crypto changed his life. After undergoing treatment for a methamphetamine addiction in the early 2000s, he attended a Christian college and ended up marrying his admissions counselor. For a few years, he dabbled in a variety of businesses before settling on the volatile crypto markets.

He started making videos in 2017, mostly low-tech monologues about crypto news, but his channel didn’t take off until three years later, when a boom in prices attracted millions of amateur traders who were looking for advice.

During the pandemic, Armstrong upgraded to a professional studio and hired a small staff to produce slick, professionally edited videos. At the market’s peak, he has said, he had about $40 million of crypto. But the line between his personal finances and the corporate accounts was blurry: Most of those assets technically belonged to BJ Investment Holdings, a company that he owned with T.J. Shedd, a fellow crypto enthusiast who managed the production business.

If crypto is the Wild West of finance, then crypto influencers inhabit the wildest stretch of that frontier. The top YouTubers — veering between earnest soliloquies about the Federal Reserve’s rate cuts and impassioned endorsements of coins named after cartoon animals — command huge audiences and hold sway over the types of obsessively online day traders who drove the so-called meme stock frenzy in 2021.

Last spring, as the crypto market struggled to rebound, Armstrong started promoting a new cryptocurrency, BEN Coin, which he was developing with Cassandra Wolfe, a HIT Network contractor known on social media as the Duchess of DeFi. Wolfe, 34, had helped secure the lucrative Stake sponsorship, but Armstrong’s staff thought BEN Coin was a bad idea. They worried that it was an obviously cynical money grab and they didn’t want him to promote the venture on the BitBoy YouTube channel.

At the same time, Shedd was starting to hear other worrisome stories about his business partner. In a September lawsuit, he accused Armstrong of “unlawfully directing and diverting” as much as $50,000 a month to Wolfe, with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Armstrong had also stolen tens of thousands of dollars in crypto from the firm, the complaint said. Shedd triggered a clause in the holding company’s operating agreement that allowed him to buy out Armstrong’s majority stake.

Then came the ultimate blow. In September, a crypto investor named Carlos Diaz, who moved in the same social circles as the HIT Network executives, asked Armstrong to sign over the title to the Lamborghini. Diaz was a onetime BitBoy superfan. “There was a spiritual connection,” he said in an interview. “I really felt like this was God talking to me through him.”

How exactly Diaz ended up asking his spiritual guide for a $350,000 sports car remains the subject of considerable legal dispute. Diaz said he had lost money on a large investment in BEN Coin and wanted to sell the car to recoup the funds. Armstrong insists Diaz presented himself as an agent of HIT Network who was helping the company raise money. In any case, Armstrong said, he felt physically threatened and wanted to reach some kind of settlement.

BitBoy’s two-year tenure as a Lamborghini owner ended in a Walmart parking lot, where he met Diaz to complete the paperwork.

‘The Duke and the Duchess’

In the volatile world of crypto, a YouTuber’s stock can rise and fall as erratically as any cartoon-inspired meme coin. By December, Armstrong was attempting a comeback. With Wolfe by his side, he flew to Las Vegas to announce his participation in “influencer fight club” — a crypto-themed boxing event scheduled for this month in Mexico City.

One evening, Armstrong mingled with Wolfe and a few other crypto influencers on the patio of Gold Spike, a downtown bar where he was promoting the event. Mostly, he wanted to talk about the missing Lambo.

“It’s in a showroom in Fort Lauderdale,” he explained to his friends, including a YouTuber known as Crypto Keeper. “I have photos.”

As the conversation turned to less-exciting topics, Armstrong pulled Wolfe close and stroked her hair. Crypto Keeper leaned over to whisper in Armstrong’s ear.

“The duke and the duchess,” he said. Armstrong grinned. “The duke and the duchess,” he repeated.

After the exposure of his affair, Armstrong released a video in which he and his wife, who have three young children, pledged to work through the crisis and keep their family together. For a while, Armstrong thought both women would support him: At an early hearing in his lawsuit against HIT Network, he sat in the courtroom with Wolfe on one side of him and his wife, Bethany, on the other.

Then, in October, his wife filed for divorce.

In Las Vegas in December, Armstrong and Wolfe got matching tattoos of the BEN Coin logo, a series of intersecting arrows illustrating the currency’s slogan, “Be Everywhere Now.” Wolfe said BEN Coin was a serious enterprise, a way to encourage people to dabble in crypto. She and Armstrong are working on a deal to offer the coin in specialized ATMs plastered with photos of BitBoy, teeth clenched, raising his fist in defiance.

‘He Stole My Lamborghini’

A week later, the duke and duchess returned to court. Armstrong had begun the day with a series of posts accusing another prominent influencer of joining a “pedophile ring” in Thailand. “Ben is on one this morning,” Wolfe said as she stopped at a Starbucks near the courthouse in Marietta, Georgia.

Armstrong has sued a half-dozen of his old colleagues. But the most personal battle involves his Lamborghini. In court filings in Georgia, Armstrong has argued he was bullied and extorted into transferring the car’s title to Diaz.

In September, Armstrong had driven to Diaz’s home outside Atlanta, bringing a gun. He stood on the street and started to livestream a rant about the missing vehicle.

“This man is extorting me,” Armstrong told police after they arrived to intervene. “He stole my Lamborghini.”

Now, he was preparing to argue that case in a Cobb County courtroom.

After about two hours, Judge Jana Edmondson-Cooper ruled in favor of Diaz. An extortion case requires the misappropriation of someone’s property, and the judge concluded that Armstrong had failed to prove the vehicle was “not a company car.”

The Lamborghini of BitBoy’s dreams had never belonged to him in the first place. Armstrong slammed his hand on the table. “The judge is corrupt,” he said as he marched into the elevator. Two members of his legal team exchanged looks; their client had a track record of intemperate posting. “Take his phone,” one of them told Wolfe.

BitBoy was wounded. He wasn’t getting the car back. Screenshots from the arrest video were providing grist for endless memes. And the new channel was languishing at 90,000 subscribers, a tiny fraction of the 1.5 million who had followed BitBoy at his peak.

“There’s no win ever for me,” Armstrong fumed as he stormed away from the courthouse.

But the old bravado was back before long. After a few days, BitBoy was looking toward the next big opportunity, the day prices would surge again.

“I’m a very complex, misunderstood person,” he said. “I’m going to be rich again. Everybody kind of sees that. It’s just a matter of how and when.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

By 111 Tech

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