Alex Saunders, the popular crypto influencer behind Nuggets News, is facing a slew of claims he failed to repay crypto loans, along with allegations that funds invested in a new project had been redirected to a crypto exchange.
Saunders is one of the most highly regarded Australian crypto educators. He provides a paid service and has 140,000 subscribers on YouTube.
Over recent days, Crypto Twitter has been ablaze with allegations that Saunders has run out of capital. Numerous individuals, including YouTuber BitBoy, claim that Saunders personally owes them multiple Bitcoin (BTC) each, prompting investigations from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Australian Financial Review (AFR).
According to the AFR, Saunders received roughly $7 million from 100 or so investors seeking to back his forthcoming stablecoin project, Decentral Bank, after he promoted it to Nuggets News followers in April. The publication claims to have spoken to more than one dozen investors who backed the project, with each estimating to have put in roughly $50,000.
The AFR reported that investments to Saunders’ wallet appear to have been quickly moved onto popular crypto derivatives exchange FTX. The exchange’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, has indicated the team is already investigating the allegations.
Cointelegraph has contacted Saunders to offer him the chance to respond to the allegations and will update this story if he replies.
— DeFi Ted (0xbakes) (@DeFi_Ted) July 26, 2021
Shot through the Heart
Saunders’ public fall from grace appears to have begun after he appeared on a livestream with the controversial HEX founder Richard Heart on July 19.
The pair’s exchange became heated after Saunders advanced data from crypto data aggregator Santiment to argue that HEX’s order books are thin, asserting its markets are unable to support meaningful selling pressure.
I just exposed $HEX on a live stream so thoroughly @RichardHeartWin cut the stream. This is the first time he has ever cut a video mid stream. Thanks to @santimentfeed for the great data that allowed me to expose this fraud. Watch here before he deletes: https://t.co/zM7IYjJg6g
— Alex Saunders (@AlexSaundersAU) July 18, 2021
After booting Saunders from the livestream, Heart took to Twitter, sharing apparent screenshots from private conversations with Saunders, asserting that he had had “begged” him for a 50-BTC loan and attempted to solicit a “pre allocation” in a forthcoming token.
Heart’s post left Decentral Bank’s backers reportedly fearful of their investments, and many sought refunds. The AFR claimed to have seen posts in a private Facebook group, in which Saunders agreed to repay his investors, although refunds are yet to be issued.
I’ve never shared a conversation publicly before, but I feel I have to here. @AlexSaundersAU. Alex begged me for a 50 BTC loan. Then tried to sell me a “pre allocation” in a token. Then tried to sell me on just giving him money to talk. I feel this may represent most paid groups. pic.twitter.com/rAoleiDKHv
— R.Heart’s forking ETH. HEX.com 40% APR 3866x @558d (@RichardHeartWin) July 18, 2021
The ABC’s Wednesday report claims to have seen screenshots of dialogue between Saunders and an overseas hedge fund manager evidencing requests to borrow Bitcoin back on two different occasions, with the fund claiming not having repaid the BTC it lent Saunders back in January. One of the messages attributed to Saunders reportedly reads:
“Sorry to put this on you mate. But I felt like I could trust you. I’d 10x’d my FTX account. Then got greedy.”
Related: SEC closes in on settlements with US BitConnect promoters for millions
The ABC states it has spoken to five people based in Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand who claim to be owed money by Saunders.
Saunders is yet to address the accusations on social media and does not appear to have been active on Twitter since Friday.
Blockchain Australia said it was aware of the claims against Saunders and has been informed the accusations are “being handled by his legal representative.” Saunders was appointed to Blockchain Australia as a board member in 2019.
Nuggets News spun off into the Collective Shift platform. Managing director Ben Simpson issued a video update on Sunday to members, saying he had asked Saunders about the allegations.
“He looked at me straight in the eye and said ‘don’t worry about, like, you know, there is a couple of people I owe money, I am on repayment plans, don’t worry about it.’”
Simpson told the ABC that Saunders is no longer involved with Collective Shift, either as a shareholder or contributor.