MELBOURNE, Florida — In a sparsely decorated office suite two floors above a neighborhood of strip malls and car dealerships, former oncologist Douglas Jackson is struggling to resuscitate a dying dream.
Jackson, 51, is the maverick founder of E-Gold, the first-of-its-kind digital currency that was once used by millions of people in more than a hundred countries. Today the currency is barely alive.
Stacks of cardboard evidence boxes in the office, marked “U.S. Secret Service,” help explain why, as does the pager-sized black box strapped to Jackson’s ankle: a tracking device that tells his probation officer whenever he leaves or enters his home.
“It’s supposed to be jail,” he says. “Only it’s self-administered.”
Jackson, whose six-month house arrest ends this month, recently met with Wired.com for his first in-depth interview since pleading guilty last year to money laundering-related crimes, and to operating an unlicensed money transmitting service. His tale is one of countless upstarts and entrepreneurs who approached the internet with big dreams, only to be chastened by sobering realities. But his rise and fall also offers a unique glimpse at the web’s frontier halcyon days, and the wilderness landscape that still covers much of the unregulated and un-policed web, where fraud artists prospect for riches alongside pioneers, and sometimes stake, and win, a claim on their territory.
Despite the shackle, Jackson’s conviction isn’t black and white. In a twist still unacknowledged by prosecutors, Jackson turned E-Gold for a time into one of law enforcement’s most productive honey pots, providing information that helped lead to the arrest and conviction of some of the web’s most wanted credit card thieves and hackers. He’s now working with regulatory agencies to try to bring back E-Gold, steps he says he would have taken voluntarily years ago if authorities had given him a chance.
EXCELLENT ENTIRE ARTICLE:
Bullion and Bandits: The Improbable Rise and Fall of E-Gold | Threat Level | Wired.com
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