The crypto king who lost his marriage, his followers and his Lamborghini

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 $US40 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.

A judge ruled that Ben Armstrong had to hand over his treasured Lamborghini.Credit: HIT Network via The New York Times

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 $US50,000 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 $US350,000 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.

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

Ben Armstrong

“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 August, Armstrong was unceremoniously ousted from his company, HIT Network, by a group of his friends and business partners.

In August, Armstrong was unceremoniously ousted from his company, HIT Network, by a group of his friends and business partners.Credit: Bridget Bennett/The New York Times

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 specialised 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 “paedophile 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.

“There was a spiritual connection. I really felt like this was God talking to me through him

Crypto investor Victor 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 favour 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.

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