Charlie Shrem, co-founder of the former New York-based exchange BitInstant, as well as founding member of the Bitcoin Foundation, recently began an AMA hosted by Bitcoin.com. Shrem answered questions through the federal prison email system.
Shrem is currently serving a sentence of two years in federal prison for “operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, money laundering conspiracy and willfully failing to file suspicious activity reports with banking authorities”. The money laundering charges were levied for allegedly conspiring to launder over a million dollars through the erstwhile Silk Road marketplace with the help of Robert Faiella, a Bitcoin trader known as “BTCKing” who was sentenced to four years.
Naturally, his sentencing came up during the AMA, to which Shrem had the following to say (usernames have been redacted):
For the lay person right now, what happened that sent you to prison? Did you do something bad, was it bad decisions, low experience, messed up system, too much new ground to break, a few of these or something entirely different?
In 2011 when I was 21 years old, I allowed a customer to buy Bitcoins via my company Bitinstant when I knew this customer was reselling these Bitcoins on Silk Road. I was irresponsible and I should have done more to block him from using our services. I dont blame anyone but myself and every day I think about all the people I let down.
According to his answers, Shrem has kept busy reading (over 70 books to date since he was imprisoned) and spends some time teaching his fellow inmates about Bitcoin:
Have you talked to fellow inmates about Bitcoin?
All the inmates know about Bitcoin! I’m even teaching them about Sidechains, Ripple and others so they understand what the industry look like. Many people here even owned Bitcoin before they came in. We have alot of programmers here, finance guys, doctors, and economists. Just the other day, someone asked me to schedule an hour with him so he can pick my brain. Everyone is very respectful and clean. This is our home for now and we treat it that way.
On his thoughts about what the future of Bitcoin should look like:
Bitcoin is and must always be ‘Digital Cash’ in the sense that it stays as true to cash as possible. When I hand you a dollar bill, its private. I have no idea where that bill has been, and where its going to go next. Thats why cash is king. If Bitcoin wants to ultimately be a viable payment system and money, it needs to stay this way. If not, it will lose its integrity and will become another paypal and eventually die out. I cannot stress this enough.
This has nothing to do with governments, guilty by association, drugs or anything. This is something that is embedded in the bedrock of Bitcoin. If Satoshi wanted Bitcoin to be anonymous he would have not created a public ledger, nor would he publish all of its code and the BTC circulation schedule would not be public. The US dollar is anonymous in that sense, so is the Euro, a Paypal Dollar, ect. Bitcoin is private, in the truest sense of the word. Whitelisting, blacklisting are all bad ideas. Terrible ideas.
The AMA is still ongoing, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask Charlie, all you have to do is head over to its official thread.