I’ve been trying to decide exactly where to begin with this article and after weeks of following the developing story, interviewing others, and gathering screenshots I can honestly say with massive disappointment that James Aspey is participating in a pyramid scheme/scam that is harming many of his trusting followers.
Not only that but Aspey has also continued to use divisive language in not just our community but in the mainstream as a whole that came to recent fruition in this Vice article featuring James.
Where to start? Well, I guess the best place is to start by explaining what cryptocurrency is for those who are confused by it or just simply have never heard of it.
Cryptocurrency or crypto as it is more colloquially known began its rise back in 2012 with bitcoin and developed into many forms including even dogecoin which is basically a meme made into currency (but isn’t it all at this point?).
Many kinds of crypto have been developed to fill niche’s in the world and one of these recent coins is EWT.
EWT stands for Energy Web Token. It was founded in early 2017 by a think tank coalition that includes the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Grid Singularity (GSy), and 10 others who all decided blockchain technology (Cryptocurrency) could be applied to the worlds energy sector.
Let us be 100% clear here that EWT itself is a legitimate crypto and a legitimate investment over the long term (this is not investing advice). In fact, EWT is basically turning the energy grid into stocks you can buy into especially renewable or green energy technologies.
While energy grids are currently nowhere near connected enough to make EWT truly effective it very well may be a few years from now and that’s what real investors are banking on.
What Aspey and his friend Randy Kujawa (who convinced him of this “investment” opportunity) are doing is more commonly called a “pump and dump” or a pyramid scheme.
Aspey started this recent misadventure by vaguely asking his nearly 400k combined followers at the time “If you’ve ever thought about supporting me now is the time” followed by his PayPal link.
People at the time rightfully thought they were donating to help the animals and many excited commenters were trying to guess what he was going to do with the most popular guess being to open an animal sanctuary.
Later Aspey would openly laugh at and mock those who were upset at where their and others’ donations had really gone…. into EWT.
James remained vague as he and his wife continued to post selfies jet setting first class on a plane to Panama to meet up with Randy and posed in front of a beautiful skyline at the resorts shimmering pool.
The period of confusion deepened in the vegan community until it finally came out that James had taken a reported sum of 229k and “invested” it into the EWT cryptocurrency.
This announcement was made in a shirtless bumbling presentation to his followers across platforms with Randy fist-pumping in the background (see video below).
Many animal rights activists who had donated were livid including this single mother of three children Kerry Loder who commented:
“James Aspey well I did donate and I’ll admit I’m feeling a little foolish for it. I’m a single mother of three kids, I can only take them on free site camping weekends. It kinda makes me sick seeing photos of you and Nicky (James’ wife) living so lavishly off many people like myself who thought we were doing something to help the animals.”
Vegan News posted a screenshot of this comment and tagged James in a Facebook post asking him to refund Kerry’s donation but at the time of this writing, neither Vegan News nor Kerry had received a response from Aspey or his team.
James responded to those upset about where donations were really going by commenting:
“Donations went to me to use however I wish. I wasn’t obligated to share what I did with them, but I did. From here, I’ll be doing what I want with my finances and, just like I’m sure you don’t share your bank statements, neither will I. As for future plans, same as always, do whatever I can to help people go vegan and end the Animal Holocaust. Got some great things on the horizon.”
“I literally NEVER said it was for the animals. I said, “If you’ve ever thought about donating to me, now would be the best time.” I stand by that. I believe strongly in this investment and also believe it’s time-sensitive, hence the urgency.”
His initial post asking for money was so strange and vague that followers actually thought he had been hacked forcing Aspey to post a video saying it was really him and he hadn’t been hacked (see his video below).
So why is this a scam? Well for starters James and Randy are exploiting the animal rights / vegan community not only for donations that James used to buy into the crypto but also encouraging James’ followers to “invest” in EWT as well in the hopes that it will pump up the price which it did slightly for a time but that could also be because crypto, in general, has seen a pump in 2021 especially since Elon Musk made his Tesla announcement.
The plan appears to be to get as many of James’ followers to buy in as possible to inflate the value of this coin and then dump it walking away with a profit while all the followers are left holding the bag on a crypto that may or may not mature in the coming years but in the short term isn’t moving much.
If all of this wasn’t bad enough recent developments to the unfolding drama have provided even more insight both to the operations of Randy and James’ scheme and their personal lives when documentary filmmaker and vegan Maggie Sargent put out two expose videos detailing her encounter.
The first video titled:
“Vegan Activist James Aspey Cons Followers In Crypto Scheme? Part 1 “Randy”” details how Randy developed an online relationship with her and convinced her to fly out to Panama as their videographer.
What she found was a mountain of ego, delusion, bad techno, and two very unstable men bragging about “investing” $229,000 dollars in donations into something they admit to not understanding with laughter. (part 1 available below)
In the the second part of her expose titled:
“Vegan Activist James Aspey Cons Followers In Crypto Scheme? Part 2: “The Panamaniacs”” that opens with Randy yelling over techno while driving in excess speeds down a dilapidated dirt road:
“You guys trust me in a few ways you literally flew halfway around the world trusting me with an insane amount of money with a company none of us really know…… Nicky Aspey interrupts with laughter…..and now we are in a rental car going down a sketch gravel road.”
Throughout the course of part 2, it becomes more than apparent that not only are Randy, Nicky, and James scamming followers they are scamming Maggie as well.
The most heartbreaking thing that many saw develop on social media and is fully revealed in part 2 is that a sanctuary was attacked by Aspey after he faced a backlash from followers after posting selfies with some of the animals. (part 2 available below)
Jungla the sanctuary located in Boquete, Panama is run by a woman named Dorothy (who admits that she put her entire retirement and life into helping those animals) was thrown under the bus by Aspey after his followers turned on him for taking pictures with the animals.
Aspey also apparently lectured her on feeding the animals in her care “vegan diets” despite many like the owls being obligate carnivores. He also never gave her any money or offered any help in assisting to get her food for these animals although Randy pretended to do so as can be seen clearly in part 2.
In the end, Maggie ended up not being reimbursed for her flight, not paid on the agreed-upon contractual amount, and was treated like hired help that wasn’t good enough for the Aspey’s to even talk to.
Not only has the recent overuse of the words Holocaust and slavery been used by Aspey in defiance to the changing status quo in the animal rights community it has damaged his brand and the community as a whole (see the recent Vice article) he has now damaged his own reputation through leveraging our community to make money for himself with misappropriated donations that he sees nothing wrong with.
As of the writing of this article Aspey’s Youtube Channel has lost over 2,400 subscribers with a substantial decrease in views.
His Facebook page has dropped from a high of nearly 200k followers down to a new low of 179k followers all within the past 30 days.
Instagram for Aspey seems to be getting hit hard too with a 30-day loss of nearly 16k followers and counting.
So where do we as a community go from here? What do we do about this?
Well for one we should be far more careful with who we elevate and we certainly need to take away their platform when it becomes apparent they are being driven by greed and ego.
This movement counts on no single person, never has, never will. Remember that when someone seems so important to you or others.
The reality is we are all in this together and each step we each take adds to the whole of animal liberation and a vegan world.
While I’m personally shocked and mortified by Aspey’s recent actions I guess I’m sadly not surprised as this has happened in many movements before including animal rights.
When I interviewed James back in 2018 he seemed truly genuine and had his heart in the right place for the animals. I don’t think that was fake I just think somewhere in the four years between then and now he changed for the worst.
Nobody is irredeemable as far as I’m concerned but exploiting people who believed in you is a step far over any line most of us would dare cross out of not just legal ramifications but the deep guilt that would eat away at us for doing such a thing.
$229,000 dollars is what Aspey invested according to Maggie Sargent. Imagine how many struggling sanctuaries could be helped with the money. Imagine how many animals could be saved to tell their stories to visitors and the mainstream.
In the end, all I see is wasted money, wasted effort, and saddest of all wasted potential for both the people involved and the animals used to leverage this entire scheme.
There will be a follow-up article addressing his recent controversial stance on the Holocaust and possible sexual assault allegations.
If you’d like to donate to a sanctuary please consider helping Black Sheep Retreat that is in dire need of help or they may lose all they have.
A more brief explanation of why Black Sheep Retreat needs $220,000 to keep the sanctuary!!
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