'Bitcoin Jesus' Arrested in Spain

Roger Ver accused of defrauding the US government out of $48M over 4 years
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2024 2:00 AM CDT
'Bitcoin Jesus' Charged With Tax Fraud
An advertisement of Bitcoin, one of the cryptocurrencies, is displayed on a building in Hong Kong, on Nov. 18, 2021.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

The early bitcoin investor who calls himself "Bitcoin Jesus" saw the potential in the cryptocurrency—whether he saw the Justice Department coming for him is less clear. Roger Ver, 45, was arrested in Spain over the weekend on charges of mail fraud and tax evasion; the DOJ says it will seek his extradition. An indictment filed Tuesday in California federal court claims the investor failed to properly report 131,000 bitcoin owned by himself and his two US corporations when he renounced his US citizenship in 2014 and became a resident of St. Kitts, per KTLA.

Reuters explains the tax implications of such a move: When a person renounces their citizenship, "their property is treated as having been sold for its fair market value the day before they renounced their citizenship in a 'constructive sale.'" Taxes must be paid on any gain from that "constructive sale." The feds allege those bitcoins traded for about $871 each at the time, giving them a value of upwards of $114 million. They also say Ver assumed possession of the 70,000 bitcoins the companies owned and then sold them for $240 million in 2017. Prosecutors say he failed to pay taxes then too, and allege the IRS is out $48 million over the 2014 to 2017 period.

If found guilty of the charges, Ver could end up back in federal prison, "where he spent 10 months in 2002 after pleading guilty to selling explosives called 'Pest Control Report 2000' on eBay," NBC News reports. In a statement, Ver's lawyer claims his client "always intended to fully comply with his US tax obligations" and "relied on leading tax professionals to help him report his Bitcoin." Prosecutors say Ver did hire a law firm to assist with his US tax returns but provided its employees with false or misleading information. (More tax evasion stories.)

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