On December 13, Guardian Australia ran a report about the crypto fund scheme that left thousands of investors short of millions of dollars. The operation was conducted under several names, most notably HyperFund and, later, HyperVerse.
The venture was led by the entrepreneur duo with a dubious track record: Sam Lee, once described as "the crown prince of Bitcoin" in Australia, and Zijing "Ryan" Xu, self-dubbed as "one of China's four Bitcoin kings" – both the founders of the collapsed crypto company Blockchain Global, currently in administration and grappling with a $58 million debt.
Australian financial authorities ignored red flags
While running Blockchain Global and after the company's failure, Lee and Xu promoted a series of other crypto investment schemes – most of them as part of the HyperTech group, an umbrella organization for various Hype-branded projects, launched in 2020. Their activities were flagged by financial watchdogs in several countries, including the UK, Germany, Canada, and New Zealand, as a suspected pyramid scheme.
In September 2021, New Zealand's Financial Market Authority issued a public warning stating point-blank that "HyperFund may be operating a scam." Nevertheless, clear signs of the pyramid-like activity escaped the vigilance of Australian authorities.
Enjoying his liberties and lax regulations, Lee was promoting other investment platforms on the side of the HyperTech scheme, namely VAV, V.E.N.D, VidiLook, StableDao, and We Are All Satoshi, with the last two remaining active. As regards Xu, there's no information about his involvement in those other projects.
CEO backed by Steve Wozniak and Chuck Norris
Now comes the cheekiest part. According to the latest report from The Guardian, HyperVerse, the flagship HyperTech's brand, was run by a fictitious CEO going by the name Steven Reece Lewis. The man was unveiled as the head of HyperVerse during an online event in December 2021.
The launch included endorsements from several celebrities lauding Lewis and the project. HyperVerse and its CEO enjoyed nods from Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak, martial arts maestro Chuck Norris, comedian Jim Norton, and pop singer Lance Bass.
HyperFund's own depiction of Reece Lewis was one long laudation. The project's CEO was presented as a graduate of the University of Leeds, armed with a master's degree from the venerable University of Cambridge. His brief career summary included a tenure at Goldman Sachs, the sale of a web development venture to Adobe, and the launch of an IT startup.
No one heard of the man poised to challenge Facebook
Lewis was praised for his "strong performance and drive" by Lee, self-introduced as HyperTech's chairman, and Xu, who played the role of the group's "founder." Unfortunately, but funnily enough, neither the University of Leeds nor the University of Cambridge holds any record of a person named Steven Reece Lewis in their files.
There's no hint of the man in the UK companies, Companies House, or the US Securities and Exchange Commission registers. The man doesn't even have a LinkedIn profile and his internet presence is limited to HyperVerse promo.
Yet, Reece Lewis was hyped as the CEO of the company poised to rival Facebook in its metaverse venture. HyperVerse was advertised as "a decentralized metaverse platform with infinite possibilities" on its way to "create a parallel system of existence that will change how people live, how we interact with people around the world, and even how companies and corporations will conduct business."
Not everyone who came across the scheme fell for the hogwash. Many users were observant enough to smell the swindle and even realize that Lewis might be an invention and a marketing vehicle rather than a real person.
Many, though, bought into the grand vision and fell pray to the scam. The report from Chainalysis estimates consumer losses to HyperVerse at $1.3 billion in 2022 alone, which positions the “project” as the biggest scam of the year.
So, what’s the real identity of HyperVerse’s "CEO"?
If you’re interested in finding out the identity of HyperVerse’s “CEO,” check out this great video from Nobody Special / @JG_Nuke .