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Before there was Ross Ulbricht, Charlie Shrem was the most famous convicted felon in Bitcoin’s short history.
Charlie Shrem. The man, the myth, the convict. Before there was Ross Ulbricht, Charlie Shrem was the most famous convicted felon in Bitcoin’s short history. The outcries for him and his possible innocence have died down, but his life’s story lives on, behind the bars of a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
His crime? He was found guilty of conspiring to launder $1 million worth of bitcoins to help users of the Silk Road marketplace anonymously make illegal purchases. Is this the end of his story as a man of influence within the Bitcoin community? Not at all.
A promising Bitcoin career has taken took him from the founder of defunct Bitcoin exchange BitInstant, and the vice chairman of The Bitcoin Foundation, to a two-year sentence in a federal penitentiary. The facility has only 466 inmates, and is minimum security, so it could’ve been a far worse set of circumstances.
Still, life on the inside is not one to aspire to. Computer use for the internet is limited, and email use is monitored and filtered by the facility. Yet, his current situation has not stopped him from connecting to his fans and supporters. This is thanks to a certain Bitcoin mogul, the man some call “Bitcoin Jesus,” Bitcoin business angel investor and owner of bitcoin.com, Roger Ver.
For the past two months, Charlie Shrem has been doing AMA (Ask me Anything) sessions on the website, and with the personal help of Ver. Ver is currently spending the month of November corralling a who 's who of Bitcoin’s elite to do AMA’s at forum.Bitcoin.com, with luminaries from Gavin Andresen, to Wences Casares of Xapo to Charlie Shrem, which is quite an exclusive.
I found it fascinating that Shrem could be so accessible to have his own AMA’s with his fans from prison, so I reached out to Roger Ver to find out on how this is possible.
Ver told CoinTelegraph:
“There is a system at Corrlinks.com that allows prisoners to add specific people to their ‘contact list.’ Once a person has been added to that list, they are able to communicate with the prisoner, although there is a 90-minute delay for emails sent each way. This makes discussion very slow, but it is certainly better than nothing.”
When Shrem isn’t talking to his fans online, he spends his time reading dozens of books, he helps other inmates study to earn their GED, and he teaches many how Bitcoin works. According to Shrem’s AMA posts, the minimum-security set of prisoners seem to be receptive and eager students of digital currency.
“All the inmates know about Bitcoin! I'm even teaching them about Sidechains, Ripple and others so they understand what the industry look like. Many people here even owned Bitcoin before they came in. We have a lot of programmers here, finance guys, doctors, and economists. Just the other day, someone asked me to schedule an hour with him so he can pick my brain. Everyone is very respectful and clean. This is our home for now, and we treat it that way.”
Sometime next year, Shrem should be released from prison, and he seems to have learned some lessons, and will make some changes with his freedom. He mentions moving to Austin, Texas or out of the United States altogether. And the lessons he’s learned?
“I’ve learnt that I don't know everything,” he wrote. “I was a very arrogant person and let my ego get the best of me. I've learnt how to have patience and slow down my thinking.”
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