Ray Trapani, a villain so outrageous that he matches comic book megalomaniacs, is the subject of the documentary Bitconned. Trapani is introduced to us as he is having his suit tailored. He admits that he has aspired to be a criminal his entire life. At first glance, Trapani’s bravado seems he’s joking. But, oh no, it quickly becomes evident that he has flimflam in his DNA. That becomes evident as Trapani’s family is introduced: his grandfather allegedly worked for the mob, his grandmother claims she followed criminal ways, and his mother refuses to realise how bad her son is. Trapani also did not “break bad” once he grew; his classmates recall him as an oxycontin seller.
Trapani, on the other hand, is consistent: he lacks redeeming traits. He and his equally vile (and foolish) business partner formed a respectable company, but they wasted every penny they made. Given the dynamic duo’s obvious lack of intelligence, it’s remarkable that they came up with a legitimate idea: a crypto debit card that allows individuals to spend their Bitcoin. That’s a viable company idea in which individuals could invest. But, because these two were such cretins, they created a bogus firm, complete with a bogus Linkedin page. They even rented an office.
And the rubes believe it. Jacob Rensel, a combat veteran who invests in Trapani’s company, says that he wanted to get rich quickly. And when individuals believe they are getting in on the ground floor of a massively profitable investment, reasoning tends to fade. According to Nathaniel Popper, a New York Times reporter featured in the film, Centra, Trapani’s fictitious business, “is the story of crypto itself.” And he’s completely correct. Bitconned explains why fourteen billion dollars of cryptocurrencies were lost: people wanted to make money without completing any of the necessary due diligence or investigation first. Bitconned is a cautionary tale in this regard: just because someone says they went to Harvard Business School doesn’t imply they’ll make you a millionaire tomorrow.
People are captivated by people being duped, as English dramatist Ben Jonson knows well. But it was Trapani himself who kept me hooked on Bitconned. Some may be surprised that the reptilian bunco artists received no punishment for his crimes, but I was more puzzled by why he agreed to be interviewed in the first place. Is he that self-centered that he doesn’t realise how damaging this documentary will be to his already shattered reputation? Or did he regard being in the spotlight as a sick challenge? Is Trapani aware of how much of a scumbag he is, and if so, does he wear it as a badge of honour? Trapani is at the bottom of the list when it comes to documentary topics you’ll love to loathe.