Netflix Orders Series On Crypto Couple Only Three Days After They Came To Fame, Highlighting Rise Of ‘Insta-Doc’

In the latest example of Netflix quickly pouncing on a true crime tale, the company said Friday it had ordered a docuseries on alleged cryptocurrency launderers Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan—who only came to public attention with their arrest Tuesday. 

This illustration photo shows Heather Morgan, also known as “Razzlekhan,” on a phone in front of the … [+] Bitcoin logo displayed on a screen, in Washington, DC, February 9, 2022.

Key Facts

Lichtenstein and Morgan–the latter of whom has attracted attention as much for her awkward rap videos as their alleged crimes– have been accused by federal prosecutors of attempting to launder $4.5 billion in bitcoin, $3.6 billion of which was recovered in what the Department of Justice says was its largest financial seizure ever. 

While Netflix and other streaming services have been churning out more ripped-from-the-headlines “insta-docs” and reality content for years, the pandemic gave the trend more impetus: viewers were stuck at home with nothing to do but watch TV and producers could make use of archival footage instead of risking their health to shoot something new. 

Last week Netflix put out The Tinder Swindler, a documentary about a man who was arrested in 2015 for allegedly defrauding women he met on dating apps of money, and this month will also release documentaries about Bubba Wallace’s 2021 NASCAR season and the 2018 and 2019 Boeing Max 737 crashes. 

Friday the scripted series Inventing Anna premiered on Netflix, Shonda Rhimes’ fictional take on the real story of Anna Sorokin, a woman who pretended to be a Germain heiress and was found guilty in 2019 of stealing over $200,000 from banks and people she socialized with.

Last year, several documentaries were released about recent scandals, including the downfall of WeWork, the college admissions scandal, and Rudy Giuliani’s Four Seasons and Total Landscaping post-election mistake. 

The Crypto Couple docuseries will be directed and executive produced by Chris Smith, who was behind Netflix true-crime hits Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened and Tiger King, and will also be executive produced by Nick Bilton, of HBO’s The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley—works that made Billy McFarland, Joe Exotic and Elizabeth Holmes household names. 

Key Background

Since the success of Netflix’s 2015 hit Making A Murderer, the platform and other streaming services have ramped up production of true-crime documentaries, docuseries and fictional spinoffs of real-world stories. In 2016, 68 million people watched documentaries on Netflix, and 73% of their subscribers watched at least one. After being released at the onset of the pandemic, Tiger King became the most popular show on the streaming services in 2020. Netflix is one of the biggest buyers in the world of unscripted TV programming, Bloomberg reported in November. And as pop culture remains fixated on true crime and scammers, there is no sign the streamer plans to slow down. 

Lichtenstein and Morgan, a married couple living in New York City, were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and and conspiracy to defraud the United States for attempting to launder billions of dollars worth of Bitcoin that was stolen during a 2016 Bitfinex hack, though they haven’t been charged over the hack itself. The couple worked their way into entrepreneur and tech circles, with Morgan writing as a contributor  for Forbes.com on business and entrepreneurship, until she was cut in September 2021. The government alleged the couple used fake identities and other “sophisticated laundering techniques” to launder the cryptocurrency. As news of their arrest and the seizure broke, Morgan’s odd rap videos posted on YouTube  under the stage name Razzlekhan became an object of fascination. A lawyer for the couple said in a court filing Thursday that Lichtenstein and Morgan would not flee the U.S. if allowed on bail because the couple has frozen embryos in a NYC hospital and wouldn’t want to jeopardize “access to their ability to have children.”

This content was originally published here.

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