Overstock CEO and noted crypto pumper Patrick Byrne has publicly claimed that he carried on a romantic relationship with convicted Russian spy Maria Butina. He further claims that the FBI asked him to work his way back into her bedroom, but he declined the order.
When Butina introduced herself to Byrne, she explained that she represented a Russian gun rights organization. Byrne reportedly has a low-level security clearance with the US government – not uncommon for high-profile US citizens such as Elon Musk – and decided to report the meeting to the FBI. Doing so is a method of preventing that clearance from being revoked down the line. Security clearances must typically be renewed every five to fifteen years.
Byrne told the Washington Examiner that he was given permission to pursue a romantic relationship with Butina which lasted until the following year.
Byrne says that after he had broken up with Butina, the government asked him to woo her back as part of an ongoing investigation.
Conscious of the moral implications of deceiving a former lover, Byrne confessed he reluctantly opted to serve his country but refused to “close his eyes and think of America,” to paraphrase the famous-but-likely-spurious quote.
“The second period, I did it because I was instructed to rekindle it. However, I decided that was not the right thing to do. But I was told where the orders came from, and the orders came from high enough that I accepted the orders. I just want America to know that I didn’t lay a finger on her that second time.”
Maria Butina is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence. She failed to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department and actively engaged in unregistered political lobbying, mainly related to gun rights.
Lobbying is a tightly regulated world. Professional lobbyists must adhere to a strict code, and the penalty for violations is very often prison time.
The FBI has denied Patrick Byrne’s story, full stop, according to Robert Driscoll, Butina’s lawyer.
Byrne has previously referred to himself as a “one-man occupy Wall Street.” This year, his company announced it was flirting with selling off the retail business to focus on crypto technology.
The libertarian CEO has been a fixture in the cryptocurrency space for years. Overstock.com was among the first major businesses to accept Bitcoin, and remains one of the few major ones to accept a variety of cryptocurrencies.
Overstock’s Medici Ventures has inked a number of partnerships and work in some non-financial applications of blockchain technology, such as land registration.