Bitcoin deal gone bad lands man with bullet wound and felony charge

Part of the education will focus on the dangers of crypto-currency investing.
Part of the education will focus on the dangers of crypto-currency investing. Miami Herald file

A shooting in downtown Miami that left one man badly injured and under arrest was a Bitcoin deal gone bad, police said.

The blown-up business deal last week, according to police, involved two men — Ryan Rice and an unidentified companion — who started the day in Gainesville with $30,000 cash and a plan to turn it into $35,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Rice told police he was concerned about his safety because of the large amount of cash involved. That premonition proved prophetic, police said.

Shortly after the pair met up at a Whole Foods with the Bitcoin dealer, whom police have not identified, the transaction turned violent. A fourth man, Marcarrous Clark, rushed them in a parking garage and a struggle erupted for the cash. Rice, police say, shot Clark but he has not been charged. Police are treating the shooting as self-defense though the investigation is ongoing.

"One guy said, 'Back off, I have a weapon,' " said Miami police spokeswoman Kiara Delva. "The other guy charged at the victim anyway."

Clark was still hospitalized Monday, almost a week after the incident. He's been charged with strong-arm attempted robbery.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that works without a centralized banking system. Its value fluctuates because of a number of factors, including how it's perceived by the public, retailers and currency speculators. When last week's deal went sour, Bitcoin was trading at about $7,000 a coin. On Monday, its value had increased to almost $8,000.

According to Miami police, the deal was intentionally set up to happen at a "public place" — in this case, the Whole Foods supermarket at 299 SE Third St.

Inside Rice's vehicle in the parking garage, Rice handed over the $30,000, according to Clark's arrest report. At that point, the Bitcoin transfer was supposed to be made over the Internet. When the Bitcoin seller told Rice and his associate that he was afraid to walk to his vehicle with so much money, they agreed to escort him.

But while walking through a stairwell in the garage, Clark appeared and grabbed at a backpack with the cash in it. When Rice pulled a gun and warned Clark he would shoot, the arrest report says, Clark still charged at him. Rice fired his weapon. Clark stumbled about two blocks before collapsing. Miami Fire Rescue took him to the hospital. His condition Monday was unknown.

Local streets were blocked off until police were certain there wasn't a gunman on the loose, which snarled traffic in the area for hours.