On Instagram, wealth coach Daventa Mayes appeared to have it all. So did her clients.
Stacks of cash? Check. A Mercedes-Benz? In sheer black. Designer clothes? Many.
So, when an old friend reached out to Nathan Conant, an 18-year-old high school student in Arvada, and suggested Conant talk to Mayes about Bitcoin investing, he did.
“I told her, ‘Nick told me about you and what you’re doing and I’m interested in doing that too,’” Conant recalled of an Instagram message he sent Mayes in September.
Conant took about $3,000 he had earned from summer jobs and bought Bitcoin, then moved that to a digital wallet Mayes created. What he didn’t know was that she controlled it.
By late September, just one week after he bought his Bitcoin, Mayes told Conant that it was suddenly worth $9,500, a stunning profit. But he didn’t have access to it yet.
“She was like, ‘You’ll be able to access it after you pay a mining fee,’ so I paid the mining fee and then it was, ‘Oh, you’ll need to pay the transaction fee’ and that’s where I stopped,” Conant said. “I did not want to send any more. I was like, this is ridiculous.”
Conant believes the since-deleted Instagram accounts of Mayes and his friend Nick were hacked and used for a crypto scam that cost him $3,311. He’s far from alone.
The Denver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said this month that Coloradans lost $25 million to crypto investment scams in 2021, the latest year data is available.
A couple from Parker lost $1.3 million in an investment scam involving the cryptocurrency Tether, for example, and a 52-year-old Aurora man lost $600,000 to a similar fraud.
Conant’s losses were far smaller and he had a lawyer he could turn to. In his house.
“Not a lot of effort was put into hiding this scam, once you look into it,” said CJ Conant, an attorney at Hatch Ray Olsen Conant in Denver and father to Nathan. He found the same black Mercedes appears in glamorous shots posted by Mayes’ purported clients.
The elder Conant messaged Mayes — or the account purporting to be Mayes — demanding she return his son’s money. “I told her, ‘I know how to find you and track you down and I’m going to do that but if you just give the money back now, we’ll forget about it.’”
To his surprise, Mayes responded, asking for some of the same fees she had sought from his son. So, he sued her at the end of September on behalf of his client: Nathan.
When asked if it’s weird having his son for a client, CJ Conant laughed and said, “No, it’s not. I don’t think it’s weird. I want to get some modicum of justice for my son.”
Before someone can be sued for something they did online, they first must be found in real life. It’s believed that Mayes lives in Oklahoma but for more details about her, CJ Conant subpoenaed Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook. Then came a twist.
Meta ignored the October subpoena, so Conant asked Jefferson County District Court Judge Lindsay VanGilder to hold the tech giant in contempt of court and fine it $4,477.
“Meta’s platform knowingly enables criminals like defendant to operate behind a veil of digital anonymity,” Conant told the judge. “Yet, when plaintiff sought to employ this court’s process to compel Meta to remove that veil of anonymity that it enables, and which only Meta is capable of doing, Meta refused and in doing so further enabled defendant’s fraud.”
At a hearing in January, an attorney for Meta — Emily Wasserman of Davis Graham & Stubbs in Denver — said the subpoena snub had been an oversight and Meta would soon comply. A hearing Feb. 24 will decide whether Meta is held in contempt and fined.
Wasserman did not respond to a request for comment about the Conant case.
“What got me mad as this case went along was not just that my son was defrauded but that this probably happens on a massive scale and what is Meta doing about it?” CJ Conant said.
His son, meanwhile, has a word of advice for fellow young people looking to invest.
“There’s no such thing as easy money,” Nathan Conant said, “or getting rich quick.”