Charlie Shrem

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Charlie Shrem
Born Charles Shrem IV
(1989-11-25) November 25, 1989 (age 28)
Brooklyn, NY
Residence New York, NY
Nationality American
Alma mater Brooklyn College
Occupation Entrepreneur
Years active 2009 – present
Known for Entrepreneur

Charles "Charlie" Shrem IV (born November 25, 1989)[1] is an American entrepreneur and bitcoin advocate. He co-founded the now defunct startup company BitInstant. He is a founding member of the Bitcoin Foundation, and formerly served as vice chairman. In December 2014 he was sentenced for aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money-transmitting business related to the Silk Road (marketplace) and is currently an inmate in Lewisburg, PA.[2]

Early life and education

Shrem was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.[3] He is an alum of Yeshivah of Flatbush,[4] and graduated from Brooklyn College in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance.[3][5] He is of Syrian Jewish descent.[4][5]



As a college senior in 2011, Shrem started investing in bitcoin. Soon after, the bitcoin service Shrem was using crashed, and he lost his bitcoins. Shrem and Gareth Nelson, a friend he met online, had similar frustrations with the length of time it took to buy and sell bitcoin on exchange sites. They started BitInstant, a more user-friendly company that charged a fee for users to purchase and make purchases with bitcoins at over 700,000 locations, providing temporary credit to speed up transactions.[1][6] Initially a side project, BitInstant soon needed to grow, at which point Shrem received a $10,000 loan from Tammy.[1][7] Shortly thereafter, BitInstant received $125,000 from angel investor Roger Ver,[6] and, in the fall of 2012, $1.5 million from a group of investors led by Winklevoss Capital Management.[8] By 2013, BitInstant was processing approximately 30% of all bitcoin transactions.[8] BitInstant operated from September 2011 until July 2013.[9][10]

At the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose, California, Shrem spoke about the challenges facing bitcoin companies and the need for them to comply with regulations, as well as the challenges of properly explaining the value and mainstream potential of bitcoin.[11] He has described himself as a bitcoin purist, who believes in bitcoin as a technology that will help the world by allowing citizens to protect their money without banks and other traditional financial institutions.[12]

Shrem is a founding board member of the Bitcoin Foundation, founded in 2012 with a mission to standardize and promote bitcoin.[7][13] He was formerly vice chairman, resigning after his January 26, 2014 arrest.[14]

Shrem is featured in The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, a documentary directed by Nicholas Mross that explores the origins and development of bitcoin. It premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.[15] Shrem participated in a panel discussion following the screening.[16]

Since his release from 24-hour house arrest in May 2014, with the conditions that he must abide by a curfew,[17] remain in New York City and wear a GPS monitoring device,[18] Shrem has been speaking at bitcoin industry events, working as a business development consultant for payments startup Payza, and advising two Brooklyn Holiday Inn hotels on preparations to accept bitcoin for payment.[16][19][20][21]

Other ventures

While in high school, Shrem started Epiphany Design and Production, a company that fixed printers and computers.[22] In 2009, while attending Brooklyn College, Shrem launched the start-up Daily Checkout, a daily deal website that sold refurbished used goods. Daily Checkout was acquired by BlueSwitch in 2012.[5][22]

Shrem is a co-owner of Manhattan bar EVR, which opened in 2013 and, in April of that year, became the first bar in New York to accept bitcoin as a form of payment.[23][24]

Legal issues

On January 26, 2014, upon returning to New York from an e-commerce convention in Amsterdam, Shrem was arrested at JFK Airport.[6] Prosecutors alleged that Shrem and Robert Faiella conspired to launder $1 million worth of bitcoins to help users of the Silk Road marketplace anonymously make illegal purchases. Shrem was also charged with failing to report suspicious banking activity and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business.[25][26][27]

Shrem was released on bail on January 28, 2014, on the condition that he submit to electronic monitoring and live with his parents in their Marine Park, Brooklyn home. His family posted almost $1 million in property for bail.[28] At the Texas Bitcoin Conference on March 5, 2014, he defended himself via Skype, saying he did not knowingly handle money used for illegal transactions, and that he feels prosecutors are pursuing him out of a fear that bitcoin could shift economic power.[27][29]

Shrem was indicted on April 10, 2014 on accusations of "operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, money laundering conspiracy and willfully failing to file suspicious activity reports with banking authorities."[30] On September 4, 2014, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting unlicensed money transmission.[31][32] On December 19, 2014, he was sentenced to two years in prison for indirectly helping to send $1 million to Silk Road.[33]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Max Raskin, “Meet the Bitcoin Millionaires,” Bloomberg Businessweek, April 10, 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Lifeboat Foundation Bios: Charlie Shrem". Retrieved 2014-01-29. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Michael Kaminer, “Bitcoin’s Jewish Whiz Kid,” The Forward, February 23, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Robin Sidel, “Hard Times for a Bitcoin Evangelist,” Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Adrianne Jeffries and Russell Brandom, “The coin prince: inside Bitcoin’s first big money-laundering scandal,” The Verge, February 4, 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hopkins, Curt (26 April 2013). "The future of Bitcoin—according to BitInstant's Charlie Shrem". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Taylor, Colleen (17 May 2013). "With $1.5M Led By Winklevoss Capital, BitInstant Aims To Be The Go-To Site To Buy And Sell Bitcoins". TechCrunch. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  9. Kashmir Hill, “Winklevosses, Bitcoin Community Shocked By Arrest of BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem,” Forbes, January 27, 2014.
  10. Kyle Russell, “Meet The ‘Bitcoin Millionaire’ Arrested For Allegedly Helping Silk Road Launder $1 Million,” Business Insider, January 28, 2014.
  11. Kirby, Carrie (20 May 2013). "BitInstant’s Charlie Shrem sees Bitcoin battles ahead". CoinDesk. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  12. Shruti Tripathi, “How 23-year-old Charlie Shrem became a millionaire through Bitcoin,” London Loves Business, May 7, 2013.
  13. Jon Matonis, “Bitcoin Foundation Launches To Drive Bitcoin’s Advancement,” Forbes, September 27, 2012.
  14. Donna Leinwand Leger, "Bitcoin pioneer facing federal charges quits foundation," USA Today, January 28, 2014.
  15. "Tribeca Announces All Star Lineup for 2014 Tribeca Talks Series; Kevin Spacey, Aaron Sorkin, and Lee Daniels On Tap," Indiewire, March 17, 2014.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Robin Sidel, “Bitcoin Evangelist Is Bound but Not Out,” Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2014.
  17. "Charlie Shrem tells Bitcoin war stories," Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast, October 25, 2014.
  18. Daniel Cawrey, “Charlie Shrem No Longer Under 24-Hour House Arrest,” CoinDesk, May 22, 2014.
  19. Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, “House Arrest Not Keeping Charlie Shrem Down,” Inc., July 1, 2014.
  20. Stan Higgins, “Charlie Shrem to Address Banking Industry at New York Bitcoin Conference,” CoinDesk, July 1, 2014.
  21. Michael del Castillo, “While indicted, Charlie Shrem brought bitcoin to these 3 industries,” Upstart Business Journal, July 1, 2014.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Eric Markowitz, “My Night Out With Bitcoin Millionaire and Proud Stoner Charlie Shrem,” Vocativ, December 5, 2013.
  23. Fox, Emily (8 April 2013). "The New York bar that takes Bitcoins". CNNMoney. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  24. Jessica Roy, “It’s All About the Bitcoin, Baby,” New York Observer, April 30, 2013.
  25. Patricia Hurtado, “Bitcoin Group Says Shrem Quit Board After Arrest,” Bloomberg Businessweek, January 28, 2014.
  26. Wile, Rob (27 January 2014). "CEO of Bitcoin Exchange Arrested". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 Andy Greenberg, “Arrested Bitcoin Mogul Charlie Shrem Defiant In First Public Appearance Since Criminal Charges” Forbes, March 5, 2014.
  28. Flitter, Emily (2014-01-27). "Prominent Bitcoin entrepreneur charged with money laundering". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-01-29. 
  29. Paul Vigna, “Bitcoin’s Shrem Defends Himself in Public Appearance,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2014.
  30. Patricia Hurtado, "Ex-Bitcoin Foundation's Shrem Indicted After Plea Talks," Bloomberg Businessweek, April 14, 2014.
  31. Joseph Ax, "Bitcoin promoter pleads guilty to unlicensed use of currency" Yahoo! News, September 4, 2014.
  32. Sydney Ember, "Charles Shrem, Bitcoin Supporter, Pleads Guilty in Court," New York Times, September 4, 2014.
  33. Nate Raymond (19 December 2014). "Bitcoin backer gets two years prison for illicit transfers". Reuters. Thompson Reuters. Retrieved 20 December 2014. 

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