Police shut down the AEX crypto exchange

The AEX crypto exchange paused all withdrawals on June 16, estimating a 36-hour outage "to avoid unnecessary panic withdrawal". Then, instead of re-enabling all withdrawals, they re-enabled them in a piecemeal fashion, with several announcements each day that withdrawals were enabled for some extremely minor altcoins, but never for the more popular cryptocurrencies.

Then, on July 17, the exchange released a new announcement: "Due to cooperation with the police investigation, the platform has suspended related services... Please wait for the police announcement." They also wrote in the post, "AEX reserves the right of final interpretation of this announcement", and below the signature wrote, "The closer you look, the further you see."

PREMINT NFT tool hacked, user wallets drained

PREMINT is an NFT service intended to help project creators build access lists for new NFT projects based on various qualifications. The project was compromised on July 17, and users were asked to sign transactions that allowed hackers to drain all assets from their wallets. 314 NFTs were stolen, including from pricey collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Otherside, Moonbirds Oddities, and Goblintown. The thiefs were able to flip the stolen NFTs for 270 ETH ($375,000), which they then tumbled through Tornado Cash.

On July 20, PREMINT's CEO announced they would be compensating all users affected by the hack by sending them ETH equivalent to the floor price of the stolen NFTs. "I realize that the NFTs stolen were not all floor NFTs... You might feel like this compensation isn’t enough. But I don’t think there’s any other scalable and objective way to do this," he said. The total repayment will amount to about 340 ETH ($525,000). PREMINT also bought the two most expensive stolen NFTs from their new owners for the prices they had paid to buy them from the hacker—92 ETH ($138,000) for a Bored Ape and 12 ETH ($17,800) for an Azuki. Those NFTs were returned to their original owners.

NFTs valued at $150,000 stolen via phishing link posted to the hacked Twitter account of NFT artist DeeKay

A colorful illustration of a conveyer belt ziz-zagging upwards. On the bottom level is a small boy with a butterfly over his head, amidst houses and trees. The second level has a larger town. The third level has an illustration of New York, with skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty. The fourth level has San Francisco, with the Golden Gate Bridge. The fifth and final level has hills and a gravestone, with a ghostly angel next to it.Frame from the animated "Life and Death" NFT sold to Snoop Dogg (attribution)
On July 16, hackers compromised the Twitter account belonging to the well-known NFT artist DeeKay, who sold an NFT for 310 ETH (then $1 million) to Snoop Dogg in April. The 180,000 followers of DeeKay's compromised Twitter account saw it post a link announcing a new limited quantity airdrop, which directed them to a website mimicking DeeKay's real site. Some people fell for the scam, and in trying to claim their NFTs, actually approved transactions that allowed the scammers to empty their wallets. One victim lost four Cool Cat NFTs and three Azuki NFTs, which have floor prices of around 4 ETH (~$5,350) and 12 ETH (~$16,200) respectively.

Altogether, the stolen NFTs were valued at around $150,000. DeeKay reported that he wasn't sure how his Twitter account had been compromised, but that "my guess is that [two-factor authentication] was off for that specific time". DeeKay wrote that he was considering compensating his followers who were victim to the scam, but that "[a] few are pretending to be affected and looking for opportunities", and "this also encourages hackers to keep doing their thing". "There were some kind souls who were affected and have shown me great flexibility for me to compensate in different ways. Some are asking for high demands as if I was the hacker...😪", he wrote in the thread.

Coinbase plans to shut down its affiliate-marketing program, sparking rumors of an impending crisis

A leaked email revealed that Coinbase is planning to temporarily end its affiliate-marketing program, which pays influencers to convince their followers to sign up. Some influencers were earning $40 for each person they pulled on to the platform in early 2022, though the rewards had reportedly dwindled to as low as $2/person more recently. In the leaked email, Coinbase stated that they would be shutting down the program on July 19 "due to crypto market conditions and the outlook for the remainder of 2022". They also said they planned to re-enable the program at some point in 2023.

The news sparked rumors about Coinbase, including that they might be facing a liquidity crisis or insolvency. Others dismissed those rumors as unfounded, and normal behavior for a company facing a market downturn. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted that Coinbase was "well capitalized".

Betty Boop launches "Boop & Frens" NFT project

A 3D rendering of Betty Boop, overlaid with horizontal lines somewhat resembling an old televisionBetty Boop NFT promotional art (attribution)
The studio behind Betty Boop decided there was no better time to launch a Betty Boop NFT collection than during a period of record low interest in NFTs (or, more likely, they started the project during the NFT craze and decided they'd sunk too much money into it to pull the plug). The Betty Boop Twitter account announced Boop & Frens, an 8,888-piece NFT collection.

Reception on Twitter was brutal, with one person commenting, "And that's another one for Beloved Icons Ruined By Pyramid Scheme Bingo". Another described the decision to launch an NFT project as "jumping on the bandwagon while it's actively collapsing". The reception on Discord was also tepid, with only 130 people joining the server in the two days following the announcement.

OpenSea NFT marketplace lays off 20% of employees

OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, announced that they would be laying off around 20% of their employees, or around 60 people. CEO Devin Finzer blamed "crypto winter" for necessitating the decision, a common phrase that has been referenced by multiple CEOs who have announced layoffs in the past two months.

John McAfee associate fined $376,000 for pump & dump scheme and undisclosed promotion of ICOs

Portrait of John McAfee, speaking at a microphoneJohn McAfee (attribution)
In October 2020, the SEC filed charges against anti-virus software magnate, two-time Libertarian presidential candidate, and all-around shady character John McAfee, as well as his bodyguard, Jimmy Watson Jr. They alleged that the two had promoted several initial coin offerings (ICOs) without disclosing that they were being paid to do so. The SEC also charged the pair with participating in a pump and dump scheme, where they secretly bought large amounts of a cryptocurrency token before hyping it on Twitter (where McAfee had millions of followers), then selling the tokens as the price increased.

McAfee died by suicide in June 2021 in a Spanish prison, shortly before he was due to be extradited to the United States on tax evasion charges. His death kicked off a tornado of conspiracy theories by QAnon followers.

Now, the SEC has wrapped up the investigation, finding his partner in crime responsible for the undisclosed promotion and pump and dump scheme. In addition to a $376,000 fine, Watson is prohibited from any professional cryptocurrency trading.

Celsius files for bankruptcy

One month after pausing customer withdrawals, crypto lending firm Celsius Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Celsius had recently hired a new group of restructuring lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, the same group counseling Voyager Digital in their bankruptcy proceedings announced on July 6.

Citizen Finance claims to have been hacked for around $100,000

Citizen Finance, a multichain platform that has something to do with NFTs and blockchain gaming, claimed to have suffered an attack by an outside party who obtained access to a private key for the BNB and Polygon chains. The attacker then used their access to transfer 244 BNB (~$55,000), 57,637 MATIC (~$32,300), and 7,000 USDC for a total windfall of around $94,300. The theft also caused the value of the CIFI token to plummet more than 50%.

As with many of these attacks, it's not immediately clear if there was truly an outside party who gained unauthorized access, or if the "attack" was actually a rug pull or an inside job. The project tweeted on July 16 that they were "continu[ing] to investigate" and had hired outside security firms to try to help them identify the hacker and recoup lost funds.

More than $8.17 million stolen in phishing attack targeting Uniswap users

In a successful, broadly-targeted phishing campaign, more than 70,000 addresses connected to Uniswap were airdropped tokens that baited users into approving transactions that allowed attackers to control their wallets. After some initial confusion that there might be a vulnerability in Uniswap itself, it was determined that the thefts were being perpetrated through the airdrop, which also linked users to a website that resembled the authentic Uniswap site. Users were tricked into signing the contract, and cryptocurrency and NFTs were stolen from wallets.

One single wallet targeted by the phishing attack lost more than $6.5 million worth of Ether and Bitcoin, and another targeted by attackers lost around $1.68 million worth of those currencies.

Vauld is short around $70 million

Crypto lending firm Vauld, which suspended withdrawals and announced they were considering restructuring on July 4, have disclosed to their creditors a shortfall of around $70 million. They explained this was due to mark-to-market losses relating to the declining pricess of Bitcoin, Ether, and Polygon, as well as exposure to the now-collapsed Terra stablecoin UST. They also attributed some of the shortfall to longterm loans that can't be called back for another 3–11 months.

Several weeks prior, Vauld had cut 30% of staff, slashed executive salaries, and began various other cost-cutting measures.

Rival firm Nexo has said it is considering acquiring Vauld, though some have expressed skepticism that Nexo is in a position to afford such an acquisition.

Report claims that Binance served Iranian customers in violation of sanctions

The latest Reuters investigation into Binance has alleged that the company processed transactions for Iranian users, despite U.S. sanctions and the company's claim to be compliant with them. Iranian traders interviewed by Reuters stated that they were able to take advantage of Binance's poor KYC checks to use the service despite the sanctions.

The usage of the exchange by residents of sanctioned countries could draw the attention of US regulators. It's also the latest in several investigative reports by Reuters into Binance, in addition to a June report that the exchange facilitated $2.35 billion in illicit transfers from 2017–2021, and an April report that Binance supplied the Putin regime with information about crypto donors to opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

More than $2.25 million stolen from Bifrost's BiFi platform

Bifrost is a platform that allows developers to create dApps across multiple blockchains. They run the service BiFi, which is a defi platform built atop Bifrost. On July 10, they inadvertently exposed the key to their Bitcoin address-issuing server. An attacker was able to use this to self-sign their own deposit address, then make a fake deposit into the BiFi Bitcoin lending service in exchange for 1,852 ETH ($2.25 million).

Bifrost wrote in their post-mortem analysis that because the attack was limited to the BTC address registration server, and the hack didn't exploit any smart contract or protocol vulnerabilities, a security audit performed by Theori "is still valid"—leading one to wonder why anyone should trust an "audited" platform if $2.25 million in assets can be stolen without invalidating an audit.

Hackers steal $1.43 million from Omni NFT lending platform

Hackers used a flash loan attack to steal around 1,300 ETH ($1.43 million) from the NFT lending platform Omni. Omni allows users to borrow cryptocurrency against their NFTs.

Hackers used NFTs from the popular Doodles collection as collateral to borrow wETH, then withdrew all but one of the NFTs, allowing them to perform a re-entrancy attack. The attacker then laundered the funds using the Tornado Cash cryptocurrency tumbler.

According to Omni, only funds belonging to the platform that were being used for testing were taken by the attacker.

CoinFLEX sues Roger Ver to try to recover claimed $84 million debt

Portrait of Roger VerRoger Ver (attribution)
When CoinFLEX suspended withdrawals on June 23, they blamed "continued uncertainty involving a counterparty".

Although they initially dodged naming the counterparty, CEO Mark Lamb eventually publicly stated that this counterparty was Roger "Bitcoin Jesus" Ver, who he said failed to meet a $47 million margin call. However, Ver publicly refuted this claim, stating that CoinFLEX in fact owed him money. Both parties went back and forth, each accusing the other of misrepresenting the situation.

On July 9, the company stated that they would be seeking arbitration to recover $84 million from Ver—an updated figure that they said factored in the "significant loss in liquidating his significant FLEX coin positions".

Vauld seeks protection against creditors

Cryptocurrency exchange Vauld, who suspended withdrawals on July 4, filed for a moratorium against creditors in Singapore, a process that's conceptually similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S.

In late June, the exchange laid off 30% of staff and took other measures to cut costs. They later disclosed they were short $70 million, partly from exposure to the Terra ecosystem which collapsed in May.

Three Arrows Capital founders are nowhere to be found

Kyle Davies and Zhu Su, the founders of Three Arrows Capital, have apparently disappeared after the firm entered bankruptcy proceedings. Although lawyers for the duo have said they intend to cooperate with the proceedings, their whereabouts are unknown, and the liquidators' lawyers stated they had "not yet received any meaningful cooperation" from either. Those lawyers have expressed concerns that the pair might make off with the remaining funds—a substantial portion of which are cash, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, and could be easily transferred.

Hypernet Labs shuts down shortly after being hit with a fraud lawsuit

Ivan Ravlich, founder of the nebulous crypto firm called Hypernet Labs, announced on Twitter that "Hypernet's road has reached an end". "Hypernet was impacted by the same market headwinds that have touched millions around the world since May. Unfortunately, the treasury was also held in Ethereum, which disproportionately exacerbated the bear market's impact on our balance sheet", he wrote.

What he didn't mention was the lawsuit that had just been filed against the company, by investors who allege that Ravlich and his co-founders lied to investors and never created any usable product or service. Investors claim to have lost millions in cryptocurrency, and one alleged that Ravlich and his compatriots used a shell company in the Cook Islands to make it harder for him to recoup his losses.

Hypernet initially promised to build a system for renting unused computing power, and in 2018 raised around $20 million in an initial coin offering. In late 2021, Hypernet "pivoted hard" into NFTs, which one investor stated was a "knee jerk reaction to the flavour of the day" and a "last-ditch attempt to find a non-existent market for a non-existent product".

Blockchain.com faces a $270 million loss from their loan to Three Arrows Capital

Crypto exchange Blockchain.com announced in a letter to shareholders that they could lose the $270 million in cryptocurrency and USD they loaned to Three Arrows Capital, a now-insolvent crypto fund that is pursuing bankruptcy. The ripple effects of the 3AC implosion have been felt throughout the crypto ecosystem, contributing to liquidity issues and the outright failure of some other platforms. Blockchain.com assured customers that they would not be one of those platforms, writing that the company "remains liquid, solvent and our customers will not be impacted", but they also would not be the first crypto company in recent weeks to assure customers that everything is fine shortly before being forced to reveal that everything is not fine at all.

Former asset manager for Celsius files lawsuit alleging the company was a Ponzi scheme

Jason Stone, founder of the KeyFi company who formerly managed assets for Celsius, filed a complaint against Celsius Network in a New York court, alleging the company was operating as a Ponzi scheme and owes them "a significant sum of money". Stone alleged that, despite claiming that Celsius's trading teams would properly hedge against any impermanent loss or loss due to token fluctuation incurred by KeyFi, they were doing nothing of the sort. Upon learning this in March 2021, they terminated their relationship with Celsius. However, Stone alleges that Celsius owes KeyFi "a significant sum of money", which Celsius has not acknowledged. Instead, Stone claims, Celsius has accused them of theft.

The legal complaint reads, "Prior to Plaintiff coming on board, Defendants had no unified, organized, or overarching investment strategy other than lending out the consumer deposits they received. Instead, they were desperately seeking a potential investment that could earn them more than they owed to their depositors. Otherwise, they would have to use additional deposits to pay the interest owed on prior deposits, a classic 'Ponzi scheme.' The recent revelation that Celsius does not have the assets on hand to meet its withdrawal obligations shows that Defendants were, in fact, operating a Ponzi-scheme."

Reddit launches more NFT avatars, but won't call them NFTs

A collage of six cards, each showing a different illustration of Reddit's "Snoo" characterReddit's "Collectible Avatars" (attribution)
Reddit announced that they will be selling "Collectible Avatars", artist variations on the Reddit "Snoo" figure that users can then customize. Amusingly, Reddit's announcement carefully dodges describing them as NFTs, instead writing that "Collectible Avatars are backed by blockchain technology". Despite this, the avatars are indeed NFTs, created on the Polygon blockchain, though users will be able to buy them with plain ol' fiat.

This is not Reddit's first foray into NFTs. The platform launched four 1-of-1 "CryptoSnoo" NFTs in June 2021, which allow the four holders to display the NFTs on their profile. The "Collectible Avatars" appear to be an attempt to open this same functionality to a broader group of Redditors, while simultaneously appearing to try to sidestep the more negative sentiment around NFTs that has developed since their last project.

Crypto platform 2gether closes user access to accounts

The Spanish cryptocurrency platform 2gether suddenly announced that they were "forced to close service for private accounts" due to "lack of resources and crypto winter". Users found themselves unable to access their accounts via the website or the app, which showed an "under maintenance" message. The company also closed all social media accounts. The previous day, the company had announced they would begin charging a €20 ($20.33) fee for users because it was "impossible to maintain the free service", but apparently decided to go much further. Around 100,000 users found themselves unable to withdraw their funds.

2gether had previously made news in August 2020, when hackers stole 114 Bitcoin and 276 ETH—then worth around €1.183 million ($1.2 million), and representing 15% of customer funds. The company successfully raised €1.5 million ($1.52 million) in a financing round several months later to cover the loss.

User trying to swap $5 in stablecoins via Decentral Bank ends up with $10 trillion

A user tried twice to swap $5 of the USN stablecoin for Tether on the Decentral Bank platform. Both times, the transaction failed due to a bug that prevented users who didn't already hold Tether from swapping other currencies for Tether. The refund mechanism also had a bug, and both times the system failed to process the transaction, the user ended up being refunded $5 trillion instead of $5.

Decentral Bank paused the smart contract upon noticing the decimal point bug, and burned the excess $10 trillion supply to restore the proper amount of stablecoins in circulation.

Luckily for them, they were able to pause the contract before anyone exploited it in ways that were not so easily rectified. The ability to receive $1 trillion in USN out of $1 could have easily been used to drain the USN/USDT liquidity pool.

Bitstamp tries to launch "inactivity fee", cancels it after backlash

The cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp announced its plans to charge a €10 (~$10.17) monthly fee to inactive users outside of the US who had account balances below €200 ($203.38). The exchange explained that "keeping inactive accounts on the books is a cost", and that users could buy or sell crypto, make deposits or withdrawals, or sign up for staking to avoid the fee.

The plans enraged some of their users, who called the company a scam and questioned the decision to charge only the users with the least funds. Following the backlash, Bitstamp walked back the decision to impose the fee.

Genesis lost hundreds of millions due to exposure to Three Arrows Capital and Babel Finance

Genesis, a crypto broker and lender, suffered "a few hundred million dollars" in losses during the recent crypto downturn. This were largely due to the firm's exposure to the bankrupt Three Arrows Capital.

Genesis is owned by the deep-pocketed Digital Currency Group (DCG), which may enable it to weather this loss better than some of its crypto brethren. CEO Michael Moro tweeted that "DCG has assumed certain liabilities of Genesis" relating to Three Arrows Capital's inability to meet a margin call.

Report reveals that crypto investment firm Uprise lost 99% of customer funds trying to short Luna during its collapse

According to Seoul Economic Daily, the Korean cryptocurrency investment fund Uprise lost 99% of its customer funds when they tried to short Luna during its collapse in May. Although Luna crashed in price from around $90 to fractions of a cent, brief price spikes were enough to wipe out Uprise's positions. The firm lost 99% of its customers' funds, or ₩26.7 billion ($20.5 million), as well as an additional ₩3.9 billion ($3 million) of its own money.

The firm advertised its AI-enabled automatic trading strategies, which it said would reduce the risk involved with leveraged crypto trading.

A spokesperson for Uprise stated, "It is true that damage to customer assets has occurred due to unexpected great volatility in the market."

Voyager Digital files for bankruptcy

Voyager Digital, a crypto broker that suspended withdrawals a week prior, announced that it had filed for bankruptcy. They attributed their decision to "prolonged volatility and contagion in the crypto markets", as well as their exposure to Three Arrows Capital, an also-bankrupt crypto fund that defaulted on a loan from Voyager worth around $660 million.

Voyager CEO Stephen Ehrlich wrote on Twitter that he expected that Voyager would "emerge as a stronger company", certainly an optimistic prediction for a crypto broker that froze customer funds with no promise they will ever be able to access them, then filed for bankruptcy.

U.S. Office of Government Ethics issues guidance prohibiting executive branch employees who hold crypto from working on crypto policy

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics issued a legal advisory stating that government employees who hold cryptocurrency may not work on policy or regulation that could potentially impact the value of their holdings. They also clarified that "Cryptocurrencies and stablecoins do not meet the definition of 'publicly traded securities' for purposes of these exemptions. This is true even if individual cryptocurrencies or stablecoins constitute securities for purposes of the Federal or state securities laws."

The OGE's purview is limited to the executive branch, meaning that although this impacts White House employees and federal agencies like the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department, it unfortunately does not apply to legislators.

Polium gaming console is announced, in a feat of vaporware impressive even for web3

Two logos arranged horizontally. On the left is the Polium logo, a white cube with cutouts resembling a P. On the left is a GameCube logo, a purple cube where the purple somewhat resembles a G.Polium logo (left) and GameCube logo (right) (attribution)
Vaporware is hardly a new phenomenon in the web3 space, but the Polium project is bringing it to new heights. They announced their product—a "multi-chain console for Web 3 Gaming"—with no extant console, no design for one, and no games for it.

The website advertises specifications for an eventual console that contradict—it will be both 4K and 8K, for example—and promises to integrate Apple's TouchID (despite the fact that Apple does not allow non-Apple products to use that technology). The product's Medium page describes their plans to take pre-orders before the console hardware is built (good sign), and estimates a release date of Q3 2024.

Polium has also gotten flak for its logo, which quite resembles the GameCube logo. Although they claimed in a tweet that "we did not copy the Nintendo's GameCube logo", they also promised to "illustrate a new logo that is original"—apparently acknowledging that theirs is not.

CoinLoan crypto lending platform reduces account withdrawal limit

Claiming that they had no exposure to the various high profile collapses in the crypto industry lately, CoinLoan announced that they nevertheless would be reducing account withdrawal limits as they anticipated liquidity issues. They announced that users could only withdraw up to $5,000 a day, a change from the previous $500,000/day limit. CoinLoan tried to reassure customers that "rest assured that your assets are safe"—a statement that has also been made by various other crypto platforms recently, shortly before they announced insolvency.

Apparently forgetting the industry they're in, CoinLoan also wrote that their "strategy bars risky activities that could endanger CoinLoaners' funds".

Crypto lender Vauld suspends withdrawals, considers restructuring

Vauld, a major cryptocurrency lender backed by the likes of Coinbase and Peter Thiel, announced they have suspended withdrawals, trading, and deposits due to the crypto market downturn, "financial difficulties of our key business partners", and a recent bank run of customer withdrawals approaching $200 million.

Vauld, which is based in Singapore, also announced that they would be bringing on financial and legal advisors to "explore and analyse all possible options, including potential restructuring options".

Twitter and YouTube accounts for the British Army simultaneously hacked and used to promote NFT and crypto scams

A screenshot of the Twitter profile for @BritishArmy, which has been rebranded to use the same images as the Twitter account of the real "The Possessed" NFT account. A pinned tweet reads "we are ready to present you with a collection of anomalies. The Anomalies is a collection of special Possessed 1/1s, created by @whatthefurr. They will all animate in typical Possessed style 1/3 You can get it right now! Get your nft : the possssed.xyz #NFT"Hijacked British Army Twitter account (attribution)
The 362,000-follower verified Twitter account and 178,000-follower YouTube account for the British Army were simultaneously compromised, and used to shill two different crypto scams.

On Twitter, the account details were changed to resemble the Possessed NFT project (as also happened to top Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player MkLeo in March). Tweets from the account announced a "new NFT collection" and linked to a fake minting website, complete with a fake counter showing the number of available NFTs appearing to dwindle.

Meanwhile, the YouTube account was rebranded to resemble ARK Invest, the investment management firm founded by Cathie Wood. It ran a steady stream of fake videos cribbed from an old, real livestream with Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey, but surrounded with borders promoting "double your money" Bitcoin and Ether scams. This is a common YouTube scam, and one such scam earned crypto scammers $1.3 million in 24 hours back in May.

Crema Finance hacked for $8.8 million, most returned

Solana liquidity protocol Crema Finance was exploited for around 69,500 SOL (~$2.3 million) and around $6.5 million worth of stablecoins for a total loss of around $8.8 million in notional value. The hacker then swapped the stablecoins for Ethereum via Uniswap.

Crema Finance sent a message to the hacker via Ethereum transaction, writing that "you have 72h from now to consider becoming a white hat and keeping $800k as the bounty... Otherwise the police and legal force will officially get involved and there will be endless tracing waiting for you." On July 6, Crema announced that they had reached an agreement with the hacker, who returned most of the funds and kept 45,455 SOL ($1.68 million) as a "bounty".

Crema Finance is not to be confused with C.R.E.A.M. Finance, a crypto lending service that was hacked three separate times in 2021 for a total of nearly $200 million.

Meta hammers another nail into the coffin of Libra, announcing the shutdown of their Novi project

Diem, formerly known as Libra, was a stablecoin-based payments system proposed by Meta, formerly known as Facebook. Novi, formerly Calibra (are you keeping up?), was a crypto wallet and crypto-based money transfer pilot project run by the company. The app was advertised as a solution for sending remittances, and claimed it would help provide "equal access to financial services".

Libra-now-Diem ground to a halt after concerns from regulatory bodies and the general public, with Facebook-now-Meta abandoning the project in January 2022. Now they've announced they'll be shutting down Calibra-now-Novi, too, and have advised users to withdraw their balance "as soon as possible". Users won't be able to add money to their accounts beginning on July 21.

Quixotic NFT marketplace hacked for more than $100,000

Quixotic, an NFT marketplace on the Optimism network, was attacked after a hacker was able to exploit a recently updated smart contract. The attacker made off with at least $100,000.

Quixotic is the largest NFT marketplace on Optimism, a layer 2 Ethereum network. Despite being the largest marketplace on the network, it still does fairly little in volume compared to NFT marketplaces on other networks, boasting only around $420,000 in trading volume in the last 30 days.

Quixotic paused marketplace activity after discovering the hack, and promised to reimburse all users who had tokens stolen from them.

Ankr gateways for Polygon and Fantom compromised, seed phrases possibly stolen

The Ankr public RPC gateways (basically an API for dApps and other services to communicate with the blockchain) for Polygon and Fantom were impacted when attackers compromised the projects' DNS management. Those who accessed Polygon or Fantom using Ankr's RPC gateways saw pop-up windows stating that "funds are at risk", and prompting them to enter their seed phrases at a website linked from the popup to "restore their wallet".

Polygon's chief information security officer Mudit Gupta told CoinDesk that day that "no funds [were] lost as far as we know but we are still investigating", and that dApps using the Ankr RPC endpoint were non-functional. Ankr later announced that the RPC systems had been fully restored, and that the breach had come from a "third-party vendor" that enabled attackers to change Ankr's domain hosts.

Voyager Digital suspends withdrawals and other activity

Voyager Digital announced that they had suspended trading, deposits, withdrawals, and loyalty rewards. This came after it was revealed that Voyager had issued a notice of default to the bankrupt Three Arrows Capital on a loan of more than $670 million worth of USDC and Bitcoin. On June 22, Voyager had reduced their withdrawal limit, suggesting they were having trouble meeting customer demand for withdrawals. The week before that, Voyager had secured a large loan from FTX to try to help them stay afloat.

Voyager announced that they were making the decision "given current market conditions", and that it "gives us additional time to continue exploring strategic alternatives with various interested parties". They also released some financial and balance sheet updates that painted a pretty grim picture.

Coca-Cola launches Pride NFTs, bringing the commercialization of Pride to new lows

A 3D rendering of a glass coke bottle with pink and orange swirls on it, surrounded by faceted spherical prisms and rainbow lightsCoca-Cola Pride Bottle #8 (attribution)
If it wasn't already nauseating to watch a huge corporation like Coca-Cola use LGBTQ Pride Month to market their products and pay lip service to supporting LGBTQ rights while supporting anti-LGBTQ politicians, now they're doing it with NFTs. Coca-Cola launched "The Coca-Cola Pride Collection" of 136 NFTs, which are minting for 335 MATIC (~$158). The website states that all proceeds will go to LGBTQ+ charities.

At that price, Coca-Cola will only be earning about $21,500 (minus any expenses) if the project mints out, plus any resale fees. A many-billion-dollar company like Coca-Cola might consider just donating the 20 grand themselves.

Mirror Trading International charged after $1.7 billion fraud

Mirror Trading International was a South African Bitcoin pool operator that advertised to investors that it would generate 10% returns a month, with bonuses for referring friends and family. In reality, the project was a global pyramid scheme that lied to investors about the existence of a "trading bot", falsified account statements, engaged in no profitable forex trading, and used participants' deposits to pay out "returns" to other investors. The company operated from May 2018 until its bankruptcy and liquidation in early 2021, pulling in more than $1.7 billion.

Mirror Trading International was founded and operated by Cornelius Johannes Steynberg, who had been on the run from South African police until recently being detained in Brazil on an INTERPOL warrant. The CFTC is seeking full restitution, disgorgement, and bans from future trading.

Owner of Circle Society platform, which advertised 600% returns, charged with fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice announced fraud charges against David Saffron, the owner of the Circle Society cryptocurrency investment platform (with no relation to Circle). Saffron allegedly lied to investors, saying he operated a cryptocurrency trading bot that would generate 500–600% returns on investment. He also reportedly held meetings at luxury homes in the Hollywood Hills and traveled with armed security "in order to create the false appearance of wealth and success".

The scheme ultimately drew in about $12 million from investors, beginning in late 2017. Saffron was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 115 years in prison.

Previously, in April 2021, the a court ordered Circle Society and Saffron to pay $32 million in relation to the scheme after a default judgment in a lawsuit from the CFTC, who described the whole thing as a Ponzi scheme.

Operator of fraudulent Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services ICO charged with securities fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice charged Michael Alan Stollery with securities fraud over his role as founder and CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services (TBIS). TBIS was a supposed cryptocurrency investment platform that launched an initial coin offering in 2018. The ICO drew in $21 million until the SEC obtained a court order to halt the offering on May 29, 2018.

The DoJ alleges that Stollery falsified the TBIS whitepaper, wrote fake testimonials on the project website, and made up business relationships with the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and large companies including Apple, Pfizer, and Disney.

If convicted on all counts, Stollery faces up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Department of Justice charges founders of the $100 million EmpiresX ponzi scheme

The U.S. Department of Justice announced they had filed charges against Emerson Pires, Flavio Goncalves and Joshua David Nicholas, the two founders and the "head trader" of the EmpiresX cryptocurrency investment platform. The DoJ alleges that the project was a Ponzi scheme, and that they were offering an unregistered security. They also alleged that the duo were misrepresenting a supposed proprietary trading bot, and fraudulently guaranteeing investment returns. The EmpiresX scheme reportedly pulled in $100 million from investors, and appears to have run from 2020 until early 2022.

All three are facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and Pires and Goncalves have also been charged with conspiracy to commit international money laundering. If convicted on all counts, Pires and Goncalves face up to 45 years in prison and Nicholas faces up to 25 years in prison.

U.S. Department of Justice charges one person behind the "Baller Apes" rug pull

Illustration of a purple neon themed bar scene with crypto price charts on the wallsBaller Ape Club website (attribution)
The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against Le Anh Tuan, who was one of the individuals behind the "Baller Ape" NFT rug pull in October 2021. According to the DoJ, Tuan and his partners made off with $2.6 million of investor funds through the Baller Ape NFT project. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

The people behind the Baller Ape NFT project were also reportedly behind at least two other NFT rug pulls, including "Big Daddy Ape Club". These projects were not mentioned in the DoJ press release.

FTX reportedly approaches a deal to buy BlockFi in "fire sale"

According to CNBC, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX is hammering out the details on an agreement to acquire crypto lending platform BlockFi. Earlier in June, it was reported that FTX had agreed to lend BlockFi $250 million, bailing out the exchange after it suffered substantial losses.

BlockFi was last valued at $4.8 billion, but FTX is expected to pay around $25 million to buy the company. BlockFi CEO Zac Prince refuted what he described as a "market rumor": "I can 100% confirm that we aren’t being sold for $25M." A leaked call with Morgan Creek Digital investors suggested they were trying to counter FTX's offer, and that BlockFi was being valued at less than $500 million. The call also revealed that BlockFi's loan to Three Arrows Capital had been $1 billion, and that it was backed by collateral of $1.33 billion in Bitcoin and GBTC.

CNBC reported that, according to one of their sources, "equity investors in BlockFi are 'wiped out' and are now writing off the value of their losses."

FOIA request reveals that Coinbase has been providing ICE with blockchain analytics tools

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed an August 2021 contract between U.S. crypto company Coinbase and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The contract shows that Coinbase is providing ICE with access to their "Coinbase Tracer" intelligence-gathering tool, which is used to trace blockchain transactions and thwart laundering of funds through crypto tumblers.

Cryptocurrency has long been touted as a tool for the unbanked, including those who don't have access to banking because they're undocumented, and for people hoping to operate free from government observation. Coinbase, however, has actively courted government contracts such as this one, which has not won them favor among the more libertarian-leaning crypto enthusiasts.

SEC rejects Grayscale application to create Bitcoin ETF

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected a proposal from Grayscale Investing that would turn their Bitcoin trust into an exchange-traded fund (ETF). If accepted, this would have been the first Bitcoin ETF. However, the SEC determined that the listing plan did not sufficiently prevent fraud or manipulation.

Also on the 29th, the SEC rejected an application from Bitwise to create a Bitcoin exchange-traded product (ETP).

Grayscale immediately announced they would be suing the SEC, a course of action they'd been suggesting for several months. Don't hold your breath, though—a litigation analyst estimated such a lawsuit would take 12–18 months to reach resolution.

Crypto games site "w3itch.io" blatantly copies itch.io, hosts stolen games

Tweet from w3itch.io: "We are really sorry about used itchio's CSS files. But we are really shot of designer. And if you check in detail the supported project types and features are very different between us and they are two different public goods. We will try to make a distinction in UI in future."Tweet by w3itch.io (attribution)
A somewhat blundering group of developers decided to create "w3itch.io", an online marketplace for game creators. The marketplace said it was intended to be friendly to games incorporating NFTs and other crypto-related technologies, unlike the indie game marketplace itch.io, which tweeted in February that "NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the we ask that [you] please reevaluate your life choices."

W3itch.io apparently decided the best way to accomplish their goal would be to not only steal itch.io's site design, but the source code itself. The games hosted on the website were also taken without the consent from their creators.

After being called out by the KennyNL Twitter account, W3itch.io admitted to stealing the CSS, as well as buying Twitter followers. However, they refused to take the website down, and seemed to claim they were unable to remove listings of stolen games.

Three Arrows Capital ordered to liquidate

A court in the British Virgin Islands ordered the liquidation of Three Arrows Capital, a crypto hedge fund. This follows initial rumors in mid-June that the firm was insolvent, then a report shortly after that the group was looking at options including asset selloff or a buyout.

The court action followed lawsuits from several creditors over its failure to pay debts. Those creditors included Voyager Digital, who reduced their platform's withdrawal limit after reporting their exposure to 3AC, as well as the crypto exchange Deribit.

CEO and CFO resign from Compass Mining

The CEO and CFO of Compass Mining, a Bitcoin mining hosting and brokerage services firm, both resigned suddenly on June 28. The sudden departures followed accusations the previous week from Dynamics Mining, who alleged that Compass owed them more than $600,000, and that employees had tried to break into a Bitcoin mining facility to steal back Bitcoin miners. Compass denied the allegations. Shortly afterward, the company closed its Discord channel with one day's notice, prompting allegations that they were attempting to thwart customers sharing information and complaints.

Hacker makes off with $3.8 million from the XCarnival "metaverse bank", returns half

XCarnival is a project describing itself as a "metaverse asset bank". The project drew in users by promising high rewards, with one marketing campaign promising 41% APY.

A hacker was able to exploit a flaw in the smart contract for the project, stealing crypto notionally worth $3.8 million. The loss to the protocol was likely higher. XCarnival paused its smart contract after learning about the hack from a crypto watchdog.

On June 26, XCarnival announced that they had reached an agreement to give a 1,500 ETH "bug bounty" to the attacker, who agreed to return the remaining 1,587 ETH ($1.9 million) with an agreement that XCarnival would not pursue legal action.