A crypto influencer skipped court in a lawsuit accusing him of promoting the now-failed crypto exchange FTX, and he is now trolling attorneys and the court with photos posted from a beach in the Bahamas.
Ben Armstrong, known as “BitBoy Crypto” online, is being sued by former FTX customers who claim he promoted the sale of unregulated securities through the recently bankrupted exchange. Former customers are seeking more than a billion dollars from Armstrong and other popular YouTubers they claim were paid to promote the failed business. (Armstrong has denied promoting FTX.)
Armstrong, who boasts 1.45 million subscribers on YouTube, seemed unbothered by the proceedings. On Thursday, when he was ordered to appear by U.S. Magistrate Judge Melissa Damian, he posted a photo on Twitter from the Bahamas, writing: “I am supposed to be in court today. I’m not. Why? Because I don’t give AF.”
Later, he took shots at plaintiffs’ attorney Adam Moskowitz, posting a picture with a pig and writing: “GUYS I MISSED COURT BUT STILL RAN INTO ADAM MOSKOWITZ AND WE MADE UP!”
Thursday’s hearing was supposed to focus on Armstrong’s behavior in the case and Moskowitz’s claims that he has been repeatedly threatened and harassed. According to the court order, Moskowitz alleges Armstrong made numerous phone calls to his law firm, posted insulting and threatening messages on Twitter and YouTube, and sent emails threatening Moskowitz and his family.
“After being placed under oath, Mr. Moskowitz testified that he was in fear of his personal safety and his family’s safety because of the persistent communications, messages, and threats allegedly made by Defendant Armstrong against Mr. Moskowitz, his family, and his law firm,” the judge wrote. (Armstrong has denied calling Moskowitz or threatening his safety.)
A lawyer who appeared in court on Armstrong’s behalf said his client was aware of the hearing and that he was “unable to explain why his client had not appeared as directed,” according to the order. The attorney, Jason Rindeau, argued that any perceived threats from his client were of “threat[s] of litigation,” not of physical harm, and that his social media posts were protected by the First Amendment.
Damian dismissed the First Amendment argument, writing that free speech rights “cannot be used as a shield to defend harassing, threatening, and dangerous conduct like that engaged in here.” She ordered Armstrong to appear in person before the court on April 24 or face sanctions, including contempt proceedings.
Armstrong offered his own reasoning for his absence in a tweet thread Friday, saying he was on a cruise with 100 people who had paid to attend with him, and that it was unreasonable to expect him to appear in Florida on such short notice. He denied ever calling Moskowitz or threatening his safety, and added that he “never promoted FTX or even had contact with any employee or marketing agency about this.”
“I am being falsely accused in a lawsuit taking up my time where there is zero percent chance I do not eventually get dismissed,” he wrote. “It’s almost like the entire point of me getting included had been for a media circus.”
Armstrong did not respond to Twitter and text messages seeking additional comment.
FTX collapsed in November of last year, wiping out $8 billion in customer funds over the course of just days. It filed for bankruptcy later that month. The company reportedly recovered some $5 billion of those funds, but if and how quickly they will be returned to customers remains unclear.
Moskowitz, meanwhile, is pursuing several proposed class actions against alleged FTX promoters, including a $5 billion suit against celebrities Shaquille O’Neal, Tom Brady, Steph Curry, and Larry David for allegedly endorsing the exchange.
Moskowitz’s firm made headlines earlier this week for serving O’Neal in front of his house after the basketball star allegedly evaded service for months. (O’Neal previously said he was not involved with the exchange and was “just a paid spokesperson for a commercial.”)
“FTX were geniuses at public relations and marketing, and knew that such a massive Ponzi scheme—larger than the Madoff scheme—could only be successful with the help and promotion of the most famous, respected, and beloved celebrities and influencers in the world,” Moskowitz told CBS at the time.