BIT-CON

Porn Site Stole French Karate Teacher’s Identity in Cryptocurrency Hustle

The weirdest bitcoin-like grift yet may be from a cam site that admits its CEO is a fake person.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

A porn website stole a French karate teacher’s identity, founded a cryptocurrency for porn, then vanished.

Fantasy Market billed itself as a cryptocurrency-powered live sex site and offered users “Fantasy Market Tokens” to request sex acts from performers on camera. Fantasy Market’s CEO “Jonathan Lucas” claimed to have raised nearly $5 million in FMT sales, the New York Post reported.

But Fantasy Market was just that: fantasy. The porn streaming service never materialized, leaving FMT buyers in the lurch, while an innocent man was blamed as the culprit.

In fall, the company launched an initial coin offering (ICO) for its cryptocurrency FMT. ICOs are a fundraising technique in which a company sells cryptocurrency to raise cash for a project, which, when completed, can be purchased with the cryptocurrency. Fantasy Market said it would use the funds raised from FMT to launch its porn streaming service, whose performers would be paid in FMT, the company said.

Fantasy Market’s CEO who went by “Jonathan Lucas” reportedly boasted in September that he sold nearly $5 million in FMT. But in early November, “Lucas” admitted to the New York Post that he hadn’t built the underlying platform for the live cam service, and said he would issue refunds to FMT buyers.

Months later, investors are still waiting for those refunds, and some are lashing out at Lucas

“The CEO keeps saying in the discord channel that he’ll fix everything,” a Reddit user posted in late November, referencing a discussion platform popular among cryptocurrency traders. “Everyone either yells at him to die or ignores him.”

In emails with The Daily Beast, Fantasy Market said their earnings were less like $5 million, and more like $50,000 (a figure supported by public transaction records).

The Fantasy Market representative said the company will issue all refunds by the end of the week, and that their public policy had always been to issue refunds if they did not raise at least $2 million. Even with the refunds, Fantasy Market’s founders stand to make serious money. FMT could only be purchased with other cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin and ethereum, both of which have skyrocketed in value since FMT first went on sale in fall. Buyers complained that Fantasy Market was not returning the coins at their new, inflated rates.

“For example, if 1.5 ETH was invested when 1 ETH = 1,000 USD, then 1,500 USD will be returned to the investor, regardless of the current price of ETH,” the company’s website read as of Tuesday.

At the time, one Ethereum token was worth $1,257. Fantasy Market’s hypothetical investor would have lost $385. After speaking with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, Fantasy Market announced that it would change its policy to refund the cryptocurrencies’ full value.

Fantasy Market investors aren’t the only ones feeling robbed. For months, fed-up customers have railed at the company’s CEO, a man Fantasy Market calls “Jonathan Lucas.” But Lucas is a fabrication, the company told The Daily Beast. His name and LinkedIn profile picture are ripped off from a real, unaffiliated man named Jonathan Lucas.

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Fantasy Market created LinkedIn page for the fake Lucas, proclaiming him to be a French-born Las Vegas resident, who graduated from New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in “Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism.” Stevens does not offer bachelor’s degrees in any of those fields.

When the Post pressed Lucas on the impossibility of his degree, he responded that “I am sure that I did not falsify my bio.” As of November, the fake Lucas was still claiming to be a legitimate person using his real name. His LinkedIn page has over 500 connections.

Fantasy Market defended the account as a privacy-protecting pseudonym in emails with The Daily Beast.

“We thought it would be too dangerous to use real names,” a representative told The Daily Beast, “so we all have generic names.”

But “Jonathan Lucas” isn’t a generic character. His name and the photo used on the LinkedIn page belong to a Jonathann Lucas, a young Frenchman who does safety training for mechanical workers. He’s a volunteer karate coach, and speaks little English.

The LinkedIn, with Lucas’ name and photo, looked so authentic that the real Lucas mistook it for his at first glance. Then, he realized the error.

“Ce n’est pas mon compte.” It’s not my account, the real Lucas told The Daily Beast over Facebook messages, adding in English, “it’s fake.”

Fantasy Market said it made the fake account because “we were anonymous, but wanted to have some sort of image for people to connect with. Once the refunds are over, I’m sure [we] will take it down.”

The Fantasy Market representative claimed he did not personally create the Jonathan Lucas persona, so he could not say why a colleague had apparently lifted the real Lucas’ picture from social media.

Meanwhile, the real people making off with the Fantasy Market earnings remain anonymous, and may be living in Tokyo.

While trying to drum up support for the FMT sale, one Fantasy Market employee did a Reddit AMA, claiming to be the company’s “25 year [old] founder.” The user is a longtime Redditor, who, in older posts, claims to be married and living in Tokyo, Japan.

He’s not Jonathan Lucas. But as refunds trickle back into buyers’ accounts, real Jonathan Lucases are bearing the brunt of investors’ anger.

“We actually received complaints from people with the same name, saying they were being asked about refunds for Fantasy Market,” the company representative said.

Asked what the legitimate Jonathan Lucases wrote in their complaints, the company behind the fake Jonathan Lucas balked.

“I have to go now, but thank you for your time and interest.”