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Who is Coffeezilla, the crypto detective who says he got Sam Bankman-Fried to admit to fraud?


Cybercrime and crypto hacking

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  • Stephen Findeisen, better known as Coffeezilla, has made crypto sleuthing a full-time gig. 
  • He played a role in Sam Bankman-Fried’s downfall, and says he got the FTX CEO to admit to fraud.
  • Recently, Coffeezilla feuded with Logan Paul over a crypto game he said was a scam. 

Stephen Findeisen, better known by his YouTube alias, Coffeezilla, found himself in the spotlight when he interviewed Sam Bankman-Fried in late 2022, just weeks before the crypto magnate would be arrested and charged with fraud following the collapse of FTX.

Not many outside of the industry knew who Findeisen was, but he’s been watched for years by crypto sleuths, an online community of amateur detectives who investigate scams and frauds in the scandal-ridden market—and try to hold bad actors accountable.

In a video titled, “I Accidentally Interviewed SBF And He Hated It,” the self-proclaimed “internet detective” released a series of conversations with Bankman-Fried over Twitter Spaces—recordings that seemingly accelerated the demise of the former FTX chief.

In the first interview, Findeisen questioned Bankman-Fried’s claim he had no idea FTX’s customer funds were wired to Alameda Research, his crypto trading arm.

“I had a lot going on,” Bankman-Fried said, before shortly leaving the space.

In the second interview, Findeisen questioned Bankman-Fried’s image as an incompetent leader of FTX.

“Every time it comes to a hard point the answer always seem to be, ‘I made an embarrassing mistake,'” Findeisen said. “It’s hard to believe you made this many embarrassing mistakes.”

In a third interview, Findeisen claims he got the “smoking gun” when the Bankman-Fried admitted that FTX’s customer deposits were treated differently than outlined in the Terms of Service. That’s an admission of fraud, Findeisen said — and it spread like wildfire online in the days leading up to Bankman-Fried’s arrest.

Before he was a crypto sleuth

Bankman-Fried is now awaiting trial on various charges of fraud, money laundering, and illicit use of customer funds. Findeisen, meanwhile, has been lauded as as a citizen journalist in an industry that’s been swarmed by fraudsters and scam artists.

Before he was known Coffeezilla, Findeisen says he saw people in his own life fall victim to scammers. That includes his mother, who was sold a scam treatment after she was diagnosed with cancer, Findeisen said in a 2022 interview with the New Yorker.

Later, when attending college at Texas A&M University, Findeisen was asked by a friend if he wanted in on a mysterious business opportunity, which Findeisen later realized was a multilevel-marketing scheme. Findeisen sat out, but his roommates jumped in, and got a subscription to Success magazine to go along with it.

“I remember clearly thinking, we have four copies of Success magazine and no one is successful. Something is wrong here,” he said.

After graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, Findeisen worked as a salesperson for a local home builder while beginning to dabble in creating YouTube content. He discovered a niche when he began critiquing financial influencers. Today, he makes videos full time, with 2.5 million subscribers following his investigative work.

In an interview with CNN last year, Findeisen said he began investigating dubious crypto and NFT projects because the industry crawling with bad actors. Illicit crypto transactions notched an all-time high in 2022, the same year Findeisen gained over a million new subscribers on YouTube.

“I’ve always hated the fact that people in my life would get scammed by different get-rich-quick schemes, things like this,” he said. “Eventually I found crypto, which is like, there are some good things that are going on, but holy mother of scams, there’s a lot of bad things too.”

In general, he’s also opposed to the cultural zeitgeist at any given time.

“I always want to go where people aren’t going,” he told the New Yorker. “I think, if I was seeing only negative crypto stuff, I’d start a pro-crypto channel. But I’m seeing the opposite.”

Backlash

Findeisen’s videos have also drummed up ire among the influencer set. 

Findeisen was caught in a controversy with the YouTuber Logan Paul after he made a three-part YouTube series exposing Paul’s NFT project, CryptoZoo, which Findeisen described as the “biggest scam.”

The project, which Paul promoted as a “really fun game that makes you money,” allowed players to purchase eggs using an in-game currency called Zoo coins. The eggs were said to hatch into animal NFTs, and after hatching, would yield Zoo coins on a daily basis that users could swap for fiat cash. But Findeisen said there was no way for users to hatch the eggs or to cash out their holdings.

Paul suggested he would take legal action against Findeisen’s claims, warning of “very real repercussions” in a now-deleted YouTube video.

A spokesperson for Paul declined Insider’s request for a comment, though the YouTuber has since apologized and walked back those threats, according to a recent tweet from Findeisen. A screenshot shared with Findeisen from the CryptoZoo Discord shows Paul making amends to the public scuffle:

“The war is not with Coffee. In fact, I’m grateful he brought this to light. I will be taking accountability,” Paul wrote.

Findeisen declined Insider’s request for further comment on his work, saying he was burned out by speaking with the media. 

Read the original article on Business Insider