Unknown to the recipient, the powder was a benzodiazepine, a class of depressants that includes drugs like Xanax, and was delivered in a dose large enough to purposely knock him out. Then, free to use his father’s cellphone, Ghershony tapped through a two-step authorization to hack into a $400,000 cryptocurrency account.

Ghershony, now 25, was initially charged by police with attempted murder — a count prosecutors soon learned overstated his intentions. He pleaded guilty to felony assault, spent 125 days in jail and was spared further punishment by undergoing two months of residential drug and mental health treatment. The sentence reflected his lack of a criminal record, his parents’ wishes and Lease’s calculation that rehab was the best course.

The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of violent crimes without their consent. The older Ghershony, who spoke on the condition that his first name not be used, said he made his son a partner in a $100,000 investing account. As it soared in value, the two cashed out part of their crypto holdings in 2018 and earned an after-tax profit of about $350,000, according to the father and son.

Liam Ghershony soon launched his hacking plan. He had spent the day helping move furniture into his dad’s loft apartment in the Bethesda Row district. They ate dinner at a nearby restaurant and returned to the apartment where the younger Ghershony fixed two mugs of the powder-spiked, ostensibly energy-inducing tea, according to court records.

The concoction quickly put his dad to sleep, concerning enough to the younger Ghershony that he fastened an Apple Watch around his dad’s wrist to monitor his heartbeat. Then, using his dad’s phone for authorization, he moved $400,000 of bitcoin to an account he could control, and converted two-thirds of it to another cryptocurrency, Ethereum.

In the days after, though, Ghershony grew worried as he couldn’t reach his dad on his phone or get him to answer his locked door. He called his father’s ex-girlfriend, who couldn’t reach him either, and she called 911 asking that officers go check on him. They found the older Ghershony on his floor but didn’t immediately know about the tea.

Abuse of the drugs, nationwide, goes relatively unnoticed compared to opiates and cocaine, said Keith Humphreys, an addictions expert and psychiatry professor at Stanford University. Every year, he said, about 2,000 people fatally overdose from the drug and another 8,000 die after combining benzodiazepines with another substance.

People who use benzodiazepines legally often see their anxieties calmed through prescriptions. At increased doses though, the drug can produce wild mood swings, rendering the anxieties someone sought to calm more pronounced and more debilitating, Humphreys said. In that context, Humphreys said, knocking out your father to hack into a crypto account might seem rational.

This content was originally published here.


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