The Bitcoin world nearly had a heart attack in September 2016.
A dramatic incident involving SWAT, snipers, the FBI, two city blocks being shut down and three arrested men took place on Miami’s South beach. Paxful team members Artur Schaback (CTO) and Ivan Shahhrev (Director of IT) were charged with misdemanor charges of “recklessly brandishing a weapon”. Ray Youssef (CEO) was charged with the felony of hashish possession with intent for distribution.
( Note: All charges were dropped two months later in December 2016. )
The headlines read…
- Police: Men In Miami Beach Penthouse Aimed Rifle At Street, Took Photos
Twitter and National News were buzzing…
MBPD investigating a sighting of two males with firearms on rooftop near 11/Collins. Please avoid the area. #traffic.
— Miami Beach Police (@MiamiBeachPD) September 16, 2016
So What Really Happened?
The trio purchased a high end AR-15 rifle, and booked a training session with SWAT trainers for the next day. The pictures they posted on Instagram got into the hands of the media, and the scene caught the attention of tourists who saw things from below the balcony out of context. The trio ended up getting a house call from SWAT a day early.
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” – Malcom X
The gun, ammo and even the hashish from Colorado was all legally purchased, yet the police made the arrests due to the storm created by the media. Needless to say, the Miami Dade SWAT and police carried out their job with the utmost professionalism. The media, however, operated as expected. As Malcolm X illustrates in the quote above, the media has the power to not only distort but also perverse the truth.
Artur and Ivan had finished posting their Instagram picture with the unloaded guns pointed innocently towards the sky, and Ray was relaxing in the living room when he heard: “snipers are in position” coming from outside, quickly followed by: “Police open the door!!” At this point there was no time to put on a pair of pants to conceal the American flag speedos that would later earn him the nickname “Captain America” at the police station.
The following account is provided by Ray himself as he experienced the turbulent story.
Captain America Vs Dade County SWAT
The look in police’s eyes when I opened the door made me realize the severity of the situation. When a trained professional has a gun pointed to your face with fear in his eyes then you know he is ready to pull the trigger at any moment. The media had elevated the story into a national security case, and the police acted accordingly with the professionality with which they are trained. The prosecutor we met later on told us just how ready they were to shoot, and that if it were another SWAT officer leading them he could have killed us all without hesitation. We were very lucky. Hats off again to Miami Dade swat for their composure and control, the media did not make them lose their cool, for which we are grateful.
Hell in Paradise
They zip tied us with our hands behind our back and made us crawl on our bellies into the hallway. Our CEO got a few kicks in the gut for good measure. Three camera crews were waiting downstairs to film us being taken in. This surreal experience made us question whether it was all really happening – but it was!
We were all taken to the police station a block away, questioned, charged and sent to Dade County Jail – the 6ht biggest prison and one of the most overcrowded in the USA. We were allowed to make one phone call. If we were not bailed out we would have to wait a week to see the judge, because it was a weekend and – given the prison’s size – there was a long que. By some miracle we got a hold of our lawyer, who together with a good friend raced to bail us out. Not everyone has this privilege. Sadly, the legal system often preys on those who do not have the financial means to defend themselves.
To anyone familiar with the Miami-Dade Corrections system, the words “East Wing” are said with a reverence usually reserved for concentration camps and Cuban dictators. Technically, it is the misdemeanour lockup for the Miami-Dade County Pre-Trial Detention Center just north of Downtown. But to many who have spent time inside, it is the definition of a frozen-over Hell. The unsanitary conditions, unruly inmates, unhelpful officers and arctic temperatures make this particular lock-up an especially unpleasant place to stay. Old pieces of bologna sausage hang from the walls for weeks after they are discarded, as apparently none of the inmates ever get hungry enough to take advantage of this convenient food reserve. The problem is sometimes compounded by creative inmates who decide to place said slices of bologna (the DCJ diet staple, according to Vaughn) in the air ducts so the smell of rotten processed meat can be enjoyed by the entire cell. – Matt Meltzer of Miami Local News
Could you buy me a Latte please?
We got the best lawyer in Miami to defend us. He was the voice mayor of South Beach who had also defended Justin Bieber, the most famous guest Dade County Jail has had. The police held everything we had, credit cards, ID, phones and computers for five days. Thankfully our security measures were as such that all of our customer’s funds were protected despite our computers out of our control.
It was a humbling experience being an outsider of the civilization. Walking the streets of Miami without cash or any of your possessions teaches you how to be thankful. I asked a young lady at a café to check my email and if I could have a sip of her coffee. She asked about my situation. When I told her that the SWAT team had raided my penthouse, she took me for a scam artist and excused herself. Can’t blame her.
One day you’re in a Ferrari, the next day you’re begging for a latte. At least they couldn’t take the beach away from us. I took off my shirt and rushed to the water. A young fellow with a mouth full of gold teeth stopped me and said he saw me on TV and asked to shake my hand. I was in shock. It turns out we were all over the news and I was famous for all the wrong reasons. He asked me – “What are you going to do???” I replied – “Instagram.” Apologies to the gangster community but at the end of the day we are just geeks, not gangster or super villains. More apologies to all the people who called our lawyer about partying with us, we’re not party animals either. Sorry Justin.
The internet had some real fun with this story as did the bitcoin press. Our CEO was even lampooned as Scarface by CoinTelegraph. The story even made headlines back in Estonia. Ray got some calls from strange girls and we were all banned from AirBnB. Thankfully, business went on as usual for us.
Thanks again to the authorities who handled the situation professionally and apologies to our users for the scare.