Why do people call Jeff Berwick of The Dollar Vigilante a conman or scam artist? Are they just haters or do they hate the principles of freedom?
I see this sentiment a lot from newcomers in the “liberty movement” that see Jeff’s videos and think that he seems like a cool guy. So why are so many salty towards him? To address this common question I thought I’d put together this post to share my experiences and those of others that have been documented. If you know all this and are still a fan I really don’t care, this post is for newcomers that want to live with integrity and be informed about those that they follow.
Who am I and what do I know?
In June 2012 I moved to Acapulco to help Jeff with his real estate company and write for The Dollar Vigilante which was just getting traction at the time. As soon as I arrived and checked into the hotel I was already in love with Acapulco. The beautiful bay, the people, and the vibe were very appealing to me as a single, Spanish-speaking guy in my mid-twenties. Later that night I met Jeff and Mike (his IT guy) at a sports bar called Mangos, we seemed to hit it off and went out to the club all night and had a blast. By the next morning, I told Jeff I was more than ready to sign up to be part of the team.
At first, I was blown away by how laid-back and frankly, unprofessional things were. Our daily office turned out to be that same bar where we first met and drugs, booze, and clubbing seemed like part of the job as I was tasked with the accommodation and entertaining of a constant stream of visitors that would come down to “research real estate investments.” The fact was that the condos that we were selling were overpriced and located in a crappy hotel building that was in extreme disrepair due to a drug cartel that was extorting the administration for maintenance money. Also, Jeff was drunk and high on a daily basis, which meant he was unreachable before 2 or 3 in the afternoon and wasted after 8-9. This was no secret as he was always openly drinking and even posted a video where he could barely speak.
He also had the habit of going up and hitting on and sexually harassing women. This is now well-known about him now but I had to learn it the hard way when on several occasions he did just that to women that were with me. He also told me about a time that he had grabbed a girl’s butt at a club which resulted in her boyfriend breaking a beer bottle over his head. He seemed proud of this and showed me a picture of a newspaper article that reported the incident. Definitely not the behavior a normal person would be proud of, especially one that was married.
As the Dollar Vigilante grew in popularity we had more and more people coming down for extended periods of time. Jeff’s Youtube personality attracted some of the strangest people I’ve ever met in my life. Once they got down there, however, they were usually not impressed.
There were some good people that got involved for the right reasons, two of which you can see here, Gary Gibson and Jim Karger, both of which also disassociated themselves from Jeff within the next year.
In March 2013 Jeff wrote in his newsletter that he was working with a company that had opened the first Bitcoin ATMs in Cyprus. Why Cyprus? Because they had just experienced “bail-ins” where the banks confiscated money directly out of the bank accounts of their citizens. Bitcoin, according to Jeff, was going to be the solution to this. The only problem was that there was no Bitcoin ATM and he was never even part of the company that was attempting to put one there. Despite this fact, Jeff proceeded to put out an official press release about this fictional ATM that he had no part in. To my surprise, the media actually picked up the story and he was invited to speak on several new channels about it. I already knew that the news was not to be trusted but this experience solidified my view.
The Passport Debacle
The next red flag came when I was tasked with talking to customers who had paid thousands for an under-the-table Bulgarian passport to try to convince them to switch to a Paraguay passport. You see, it turns out that just like the ATM, the Bulgain passport program that people had bought into simply didn’t exist. So now I had to explain to tell them that the Bulgain plan was bogus but we had a completely sure thing with a new under-the-table deal in Paraguay. Only problem? That plan never came to fruition either and the lady providing these illegal services was arrested(1, 2).
Next Jeff said that he had a new program in Mexico where he could get them a passport in 2 months or less. But of course, that one didn’t work out either. At the end of it all, he shut down TDV passports and kept an untold amount of money without a single passport delivered. This resulted in the infamous video of him shirtless playing the victim to someone to whom he owed over a hundred thousand dollars. There are many people you can find on the internet who have still never been paid back to this day. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Galt’s Gulch Chile
I remember the day that Ken Johnson came down to Acapulco. To be honest, me and him never got along much. He had no idea about libertarianism, Anarcho-capitalism, or anything that we were supposed to be about. So why was he there? The story goes that he and Jeff were drunk and causing trouble in Florida and were arrested together, and in Jeff’s mind that qualified him as a business partner. Ken arrived in Acapulco with only a wad of money and a backpack. To this day I don’t think anyone knows anything about him from before or after his involvement with this ordeal.
Very quickly I was aware that he was manipulative and basically some kind of sociopath and/or con man. This is why, the day that Jeff told me that instead of him, I would be working for Ken, my heart sank and I knew it was the beginning of the end of my working for TDV.
A man named John Cobin (who is now incarcerated) contacted Jeff to see if he could help raise money for a community development in Chile which he called The Freedom Orchard. You can read the entire timeline here but basically, Jeff and Ken took the entire deal and cut John out. The only problem is that both of them were incompetent and bungled the whole thing which ended up with a loss of over ten million dollars. I watched it all unfold and although not involved directly, I was working for The Dollar Vigilante so I did feel the need to warn people against it. Once it was exposed as a disaster Ken blamed Jeff and Jeff blamed Ken. I do not think that Jeff intentionally scammed the people that invested in the project but his horrible business sense and judgment of character caused him to screw the whole thing up royally. Ken very well could have stolen the money, knowing his character I wouldn’t put it past him but it is not something that I can attest to.
Much like the passport debacle, in the end, no one was recompensated and many people’s complaints were never answered. (1, 2, 3). It also gave great fodder for the media to claim that libertarianism, in general, was stupid and an ideology that justifies scamming people. (1, 2).
I did an in-depth podcast about the Galt’s Gulch Chile fiasco which you can listen to here.
By this time I had had enough and was on my way out, which wasn’t easy because I was basically alone in Mexico with no other means of generating money. I was still establishing and managing TDV groups and doing videos under that banner throughout my transition to San Miguel de Allende.
This was the same time that the first rumblings of Anarchapulco started. I remember when it just started with a Facebook post by Jeff suggesting the name which resulted in him throwing a single webpage up. I knew for a fact that at least half the speakers who were listed had never agreed to go but despite that and the whole history of all this madness, many people were still excited to go. I even went to the first conference and have to admit that I had a great time and met some amazing people.
Many speakers have come out, such as Adam Kokesh, Derrick Broze, and Barry Cooper who have said publicly that they were lied to and manipulated during the conference. This I do not doubt. I had my own criticism by simply observing the direction the conference was taking in general. Away from what formerly was a free-market-oriented financial meeting to an alternative lifestyles libertine commune. I made my opinion known in this video.
By this time I think everyone is aware of the murder of a guy who went by the name of John Galton which the media would like to link to Anarchapulco. Although he certainly did come down to participate in the Anarchist community I do not find this event in any way to be the fault of Jeff or the conference in general.
As most people know you can find out more about the conference by watching the series The Anarchists which once again has the end result of portraying libertarians as reckless idiots. There has been a series of articles published claiming that Anarchapulco was a government psychological operation which you can see here.
By 2015 I had already completely extracted myself from doing business with Jeff. I was frankly amazed that he was still alive and walking around after all of the things that I had witnessed. To my shock, he took a very bizarre turn with his messaging. I believe that since he had burned so many of his followers in the international finance niche he needed to find another message. He decided to go with messianic Christians as the target for this marketing campaign.
He put out a series of videos where he claimed that there was a Jewish prophecy called “Shemitah” which predicted the collapse of the economy in October 2016. The solution of course was to subscribe to his newsletter where he would tell you how to survive the collapse that he was predicting. I made a video debunking the entire nonsense theory.
This prophecy came and went without anything that he predicted happening. Unbelievably to me, there were still lots of fans online that were standing by his predictions which were objectively and provably false. I made another video to point out that I in fact had been correct and they had been duped.
What I thought was especially hilarious was that after it had all been exposed and people were asking questions, Jeff was responding to comments saying that only deranged and obsessed people are still asking questions.
There’s not much more for me to add to the story as far as my personal experience. I have added some more random things below that I thought were relevant.