A cryptocurrency linked to former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon and Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn has caught the attention of federal prosecutors in New York, who have started looking into it, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
News of federal prosecutors' interest in the Bannon and Epshteyn-fronted cryptocurrency comes on the heels of an ABC News investigation into the cryptocurrency, which looked at allegations of internal chaos and mismanagement by the two high-profile Trump associates over the past year, including accusations that they've failed in their commitment to continue to donate portions of the coin's proceeds to charities.
The New York Times was the first to report the news of the inquiry from federal prosecutors.
The cryptocurrency -- dubbed $FJB from the shorthand version of the vulgar MAGA expression "F--- Joe Biden" and now officially said to stand for Freedom Jobs and Business -- has lost 95% of its value amid internal turmoil, at least in part due to an industry-wide downturn.
Critics say $FJB represents the latest in a string of ill-fated efforts to leverage MAGA support for financial returns -- particularly on the part of Bannon, who in September pleaded not guilty to unrelated charges that he defrauded donors with the promise of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Acquired by Bannon and Epshteyn from original lead creator Grant Tragni and two other co-founders in late 2021, $FJB was promoted as a rejection of President Joe Biden and an alternative financial institution for conservatives by the two MAGA influencers -- who also emphasized that part of the currency's 8% transaction fee would go to charities including the Wounded Warriors Project, Tunnels To Towers, Semper Fi and Patriot Freedom Project.
But according to a spokesperson for the Wounded Warriors Project, as of January this year, no donations had been made by $FJB to the organization since Bannon and Epshteyn took over in December 2021. Wounded Warriors told ABC News that they had only received the one donation from $FJB in November 2021 -- prior to Bannon and Epshteyn's involvement.
Bannon and Epshteyn did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
Frustration among some apparent $FJB buyers continued in October 2022 when a representative of $FJB publicly acknowledged during one of their weekly calls that an unknown amount of money from accounts linked to the coin's 8% transaction fee had gone "missing." Representatives have yet to provide details about the missing funds, citing an ongoing "internal investigation" and "legal action."
In response to growing frustration among online users, one $FJB administrator said during a weekly call in mid-December 2022, that "Boris [Epshteyn] is working on recovering our funds."
Concerns about the missing funds and that the stated commitment to charity was going unfulfilled increased over the fall as the coin's value continued to drop while Bannon and Epshteyn appeared to go silent about the coin for five months. Then the company briefly angered buyers when an $FJB representative announced in mid-February that the duo was walking away from the project -- only to rescind the announcement within minutes. Soon after, Bannon and Epshteyn took to social media to reiterate their support and commitment of $FJB.
"Not only am I a huge supporter of that project and the community, my wallet -- Boris and my wallet -- is public," Bannon said on Feb. 15, 2023. "I've not only never sold a coin, I've only bought coins, and that wallet is public. Everybody, check it. We are huge supporters of the $FJB project and the community."
A person close to Bannon and Epshteyn told ABC News last month, "Steve and Boris are fully committed to the $FJB community, and are working with a proficient and dedicated team in order to continue moving forward with all of the goals and objectives of the project. There is also a full effort under way to determine and remedy any and all issues stemming from actions of the original founders of the coin. The $FJB community stands for and champions transparency, independence, and American strength. Steve and Boris will always fight for those ideals."