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Manitoba professor’s photo used for cryptocurrency scheme

A new Netflix documentary detailing a twisted tale of digital deception features a surprising Manitoba connection.

‘Bitconned’ a documentary about cryptocurrency company Centra Tech that recently premiered on the streaming service, discusses how the company scammed millions from investors in its short history, and used a photo of Andrew Halayko, a University of Manitoba professor, to create a fake online profile of the company’s fictitious CEO Michael Edwards.

According to the documentary, the company got Halayko’s photo by searching ‘old white guy’ on Google. The photo was from a photo shoot he participated in for the University.

“I guess I had a nice smile and looked trustworthy,” Halayko said during a recent interview with CTV News Winnipeg.

Halayko, who has no connections with the world of cryptocurrency, was “completely oblivious” to Centra Tech and what was happening. He was informed about it when they were going to trial and he was contacted by RCMP.

“I guess the most frightening or shocking thing at that point was he asked me would I be willing to speak to the FBI, because he was there on their behalf. And would I be willing to testify in court if need be?” he said. “My immediate reaction was, ‘Who am I dealing with? Is this the mob? Does my family need to go in witness protection?’ Because I had no idea, at that point, what was happening.”

Halayko was interviewed by the FBI and learned more about the case. He also gave a victim impact statement in court, which led to the makers of the documentary reaching out to him.

He discusses the experience of being in a Netflix documentary and having his identity being fraudulently used in the video above.

-With files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso

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