Earlier this 12 months PCG reported on a crypto rug-pull with a brand new twist: The CEO of the agency concerned did not seem to exist. The information got here within the wake of a Guardian Australia investigation into Hyperverse, a crypto scheme that collapsed with an estimated $1.3 billion in losses, and through its time was fronted by a chief govt by the title of Steven Reece Lewis. Reece Lewis had one hell of a C.V., however when the wheels got here off he appeared to have vanished into skinny air. Now the person behind the crypto baron has been discovered and, in one other twist actually emblematic of crypto, it is an actor who was paid a relative pittance.

The HyperVerse scheme was launched in late 2021 with a video that includes Reece Lewis alongside video messages of assist from such luminaries as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and actor Chuck Norris (it seems these had been scripts commissioned by means of Cameo slightly than endorsements). The corporate stated Reece Lewis was a College of Leeds graduate who’d finished a grasp’s diploma at Cambridge, offered an organization to Adobe, launched an unnamed startup, had a stint at Goldman Sachs, etcetera. Because the investigations into HyperVerse started, the Guardian started reaching out to those establishments: none of them had heard of Reece Lewis. 

Now, the person who posed as Reece Lewis has been discovered. Stephen Harrison, an Englishman resident in Thailand, stated he was “shocked” to find what HyperVerse had claimed about him, and had picked up the job whereas working as a contract presenter and commentator. Harrison stated a buddy of a buddy had approached him in regards to the alternative and, seeing it as a simple presenting gig, Harrison accepted.

“I used to be advised I used to be performing out a job to signify the enterprise and many individuals do that,” stated Harrison. He admitted some suspicion in regards to the firm initially, on account of his lack of understanding about crypto, however his agent stated HyperVerse was legit and he took the job. Harrison says he is “definitely not pocketed” any of the scheme’s proceeds, however was paid 180,000 Thai baht ($5,150) over a interval of round six months. He was additionally paid in-kind with a cashmere go well with, two shirts, two ties and a pair of sneakers, for use within the recordings.

Harrison enquired as to why he was being requested to make use of a pretend title. “They had been like, ‘Nicely, you recognize, you’re an actor, you’re performing the position you’re presenting the enterprise,’ and my agent stated, ‘Many individuals do that within the enterprise. That is completely regular.'”

Narrator: it was not completely regular. Harrison was employed as “presenter expertise” by an Indonesian expertise company known as Mass Focus Ltd. (which can additionally not exist) and by no means spoke to anybody at HyperVerse, together with the co–founders. He says he labored for a few hours most months, filming in varied areas in Bangkok, and can be despatched a script and report movies for the crypto scheme.

Harrison claims he had no oversight of the Twitter account in his title, nor the movie star endorsements, nor actually saved an eye fixed on what HyperVerse was as much as: this was only a side-hustle. When the Guardian Australia’s investigation first began turning over rocks, a YouTuber known as Jack Gamble managed to establish Harrison by means of picture searches and good previous web sleuthing, at which level (or so Harrison claims) he started to grasp what his picture had been used for.

“I used to be completely shocked at what I noticed,” stated Harrison. “I by no means went on-line and checked about Steven Reece Lewis. I regarded on YouTube often, approach again after they put the shows up, however aside from that I used to be indifferent from this position.

“After I learn that within the papers, I used to be like, blooming heck, they make me sound so extremely educated–I’ve GCSEs, I’m definitely not on that stage. They painted a superb image of me however they by no means advised me any of this.”

As regards the victims of HyperVerse, which collapsed with potential losses as excessive as $1.3 billion, “I’m sorry for these folks,” Harrison stated. “As a result of they believed some concept with me on the forefront and believed in what I stated, and God is aware of what these folks have misplaced.

“And I do really feel dangerous about this. I do really feel deeply sorry for these folks, I actually do. You understand, it’s horrible for them. I simply hope that there’s some decision. I do know it’s exhausting to get the cash again off these folks or no matter, however I simply hope there might be some justice served in all of this where they will resolve this.”

It does appear unbelievable that somebody could possibly be the face of a fraud on this scale and never realise what was taking place, or actually have a little extra curiosity about what their work was getting used for. Then once more, odd jobs like this are part of many performing and presenting careers, the sort of work that retains the lights on between meatier work.

I am undecided I purchase Harrison’s claims of wide-eyed innocence fully, however it additionally would not appear to be he actually had a lot to do with HyperVerse past taking the cash and studying the scripts. In the end Harrison’s ended up with a blackened title, just a few hundreds {dollars}, and a brand new go well with. The actual villains are absolutely those who’ve disappeared with lord is aware of what number of hundreds of thousands.