The Case of the Crypto Criminal (Part One)
Updated: Oct 26, 2022
The following is a new two-part original thriller I wrote specifically for this Halloween.
Enjoy Part One (of Two) - If you dare.
Part Two of the story will come next week.
My audio performance of the entire story is now available on the Social Musings by Austin Podcast on Apple Podcasts or on Substack and will soon be available on YouTube.
Now y’all gather ‘round the campfire and listen to this here gruesome tale of murder in the Texas Hill Country.
The story begins with a man named John “Jock” Messerschmidt.
Now, Jock wasn’t always a bad man. When he was growing up, Jock was a star on the Westlake Chaparrals football and basketball teams. You should've seen him play.
That is how John Messerschmidt got his nickname: Jock, a nickname which stuck with him forever since his freshman year of high school.
Jock was supposed to go play football at The University of Texas at Austin on a scholarship, but he blew out his knee senior year in the big game vs. Lake Travis, and the doctors said he couldn’t play no more ball.
A year of deep depression followed that incident, and when Jock got himself right again he decided to study finance and follow in his father’s footsteps at the family wealth management business, Messerschmidt Capital, based in Austin, Texas.
Except Jock never really got over the abrupt end to his illustrious football career. He never told anyone about his periodic depression and self-medication.
You see, poor Jock was always only one big old slug of bad news away from falling right back into his addiction, and when his Daddy kicked the bucket when Jock was in his mid-30s, Jock went into the pills pretty deep.
Jock ended up heavily in debt, and one day Jock decided that he would steal some of his client’s money to pay his threatening creditors.
With a sense of impending doom, Jock knew that Messerschmidt Capital’s auditors would eventually figure out about the missing funds, so Jock made the decision to invest the firm's remaining funds into bitcoin in a huge gamble to try to make up his losses.
Unfortunately, the cryptocurrency market melted down that summer, and Jock knew the game was up and that he had to get out of town with whatever money he had left.
When the Feds raided Messerschmidt Capital, Jock was nowhere to be found. His cell phone sat on his desk at the firm, and none of his important belongings were missing from his house. Jock's car was even sitting in the driveway.
It was like Jock had disappeared into thin air.
The papers began calling Jock “The Crypto Criminal,” and the media was having a field day because the police had not found Jock for a week.
Little did they know that Jock had already sprung into action.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Austin Field Office
Special Agent Sandra "Sandy" Martinez of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was coordinating with The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice on building the federal government's case against the suspect, Jock Messerschmidt; however, the FBI was now taking the lead in the execution of the federal government's search and seizure warrant.
So far, Messerschmidt had eluded the authorities and had fled with over $1mm in bitcoin that he had stolen from his client's investment accounts. Bitcoin, the black market source of currency, was likely the reason that Jock had not yet been apprehended.
It was strange - no traceable ATM or credit card uses in the past week - but this was exactly how cybercriminals were beginning to operate, and the FBI was struggling to keep up with these emerging cybercrime threats.
The more Special Agent Martinez thought about it, Messerschmidt was already a financial ghost - probably only using cash or crypto to make his way across the Mexican border and then further into Central or South America.
His final destination was undoubtedly El Salvador, a country which had made bitcoin one of its national currencies last year, and one which also made extradition of criminals back to the US extremely difficult.
Martinez's only hope was that Messerschmidt somehow had decided not to leave the country, although she ascribed a very low probability to this potential outcome.
Sighing deeply, she called out to her administrative assistant: "This memo is ready for release. Let's get it out pronto."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE WHITE COLLAR CRIME UNIT John “Jock” Messerschmidt Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution - Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers Date(s) of Birth Used: October 31,1984 Hair: Brown Eyes: Blue Height: 5'11" Weight: 205 pounds Sex: Male Race: White Remarks: Messerschmidt has ties to Llano, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and New York, New York, and could be in one of these locations. His last known address was in Austin, Texas. Caution: The FBI's Austin Field Office is assisting the Travis County Sheriff's Office with the search for John “Jock” Messerschmidt. Messerschmidt is wanted for alleged criminal fraud in Travis County, Texas, on October 23, 2022. On October 23, 2022, Messerschmidt was charged with four counts of criminal fraud in Travis County, Texas, and a state warrant was issued for his arrest. On October 24, 2022, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Messerschmidt by the United States District Court for the Texas Western District Court, Austin, Texas, after he was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Mr. Messerschmidt is wanted for his alleged involvement in a securities fraud scheme that cost his investors millions of dollars. SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS Submit a Tip: If you have any information concerning this case, please contact the FBI's Toll-Free Tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). You may also contact your local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or you can submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. Field Office: Austin
Llano County Courthouse and Jail
The FBI memo had just come across Sergeant James Snell of the Llano County Sheriff’s Office’s desk, and he was furious.
“Why the hell is the FBI now getting themselves involved? Do they think I am not working my ass off here?," fumed Snell.
For the past week, all of the counties in and around Austin, Texas had been on high alert looking for The Crypto Criminal, and Sergeant Snell’s office had been highly involved given Messerschmidt’s local ties to the Texas Hill Country.
In fact, Snell knew Jock personally, or he did thirty years ago when the two of them were bunkmates at Camp La Junta in Hunt, Texas.
Both were good athletes back in camp and had won the prestigious Rough Rider prize as being the best horseback riders in camp. There was a natural rivalry between them, but when camp ended after age of 14, neither of them thought too much about each other.
Since the disappearance, Sergeant Snell had done a lot of digging on Jock, and he knew that all of Jock’s relatives in the area were dead except for his Grandma, Edith Messerschmidt, who was now in a care home not too far down the road in Marble Falls, Texas.
While visiting Grandma Edith, Snell did unearth a new, potentially valuable piece of information, however.
Apparently Edith had been loaning Jock money for years, and when she believed he wasn’t going to pay her back, she had decided to sell her property in nearby Castell, Texas. The real estate sale had just closed a month ago, and Edith was certain that Jock was unaware of the deal. She loved her grandson, but had cut off relations with him about six months ago.
Somehow Snell had a sense that Jock might try to make contact with his grandmother, and when he did, that is when the Sergeant would get him.
El Castell on the Llano River
Castell is a small town in the Texas Hill Country, with a population of 72 people as of the last census, that was first settled by German immigrants.
Standing 18 miles west from Llano, for most of its history Castell’s claim to fame involved a German immigrant boy named Adolph Korn who was abducted in 1870 and subsequently raised by the Comanche tribe, on whose land Castell now sits.
For more information on this fascinating story, check out the book, The Captured, pictured below or click here:
About an hour and a half drive from Austin, Texas, Castell has become an up-and-coming destination for city dwellers looking for a Texas Hill Country getaway, and it was for this reason that long-time bowhunting buddies Don Jabbour and Sean Jones had booked Cabin C at the El Castell on the Llano River on Airbnb.
Don and Sean knew each other from St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas, where they had each starred on the lacrosse team.
Now, after graduating college, the two Dallasites had both ended up in Austin, Texas working in big-time, high tech jobs.
As Don and Sean pulled into the driveway of El Castell, they parked their yellow two-door Ford Bronco in front of the cabin and dragged their luggage inside.
“Don, should we unlock the trunk and put the crossbows inside?,” asked Sean.
“Nah, let’s leave them in there until the morning when we head out,” replied Don.
“Man, this place is great. They have a TV, internet, a grill, a firepit, and everything is on the river. This is awesome. We are going to have a blast!,” Sean exclaimed.
Don looked around the living room and saw the Guestbook and Welcome Home Booklet, which outlined the various tourist spots and local activities in Castell.
“Hey, it looks like there is a big Halloween party across the street at the Castell General Store tomorrow night starting at 8pm. I know we didn’t bring costumes, but I guess we can go in our hunting gear?,” Don asked Sean.
Sean grunted in agreement, and after they unpacked, Don and Sean each cracked open a cold beer and sat by the river to watch the sunset.
State Road 152
Somewhere between Llano, Texas and Castell, Texas
So this is what it feels like to be on the run from the law. Man, I really fucked up, thought Jock as he made slow progress towards his ultimate objective, Castell, Texas.
Jock was exhausted, but he knew he had to make progress under the cover of darkness.
The only light came from the brilliant stars up above. Every now and then a shooting star dashed across the sky.
Jock kept on reliving the moments of the last week, as if on mental repeat, but wishing that he could alter the narrative that ran through his mind.
His first mistake was the pills.
His second was stealing his client's money to pay some gambling debts.
The third was making a big gamble on crypto options to try to make the stolen funds back.
When the crypto crash came, along with the margin call on his account, Jock knew he was in trouble.
He packed a bag, transferred whatever was left in his crypto account into a secret app on his phone, left his house on foot and just started walking west, taking little-trafficked roads out of town. Whenever he saw the lights of an oncoming vehicle, he would hide in the brush alongside the tarmac.
The first night he made it to Bee Cave, where he stole a bicycle at the Hill Country Galleria. At major highway intersections, underneath major overpasses and at riverbanks, he noticed there always seemed to be a few homeless people who were camped out and generally ignored by everyone else.
Jock then had an original idea - I will blend in with the homeless population.
Jock swapped some clothes and a hat from one of the homeless guys camped out near the City of Bee Cave Central Park, and after that, getting out of the populated areas around Austin went a heck of a lot easier.
The next night he made it all the way to Marble Falls, using the bike and then hanging around the Emergency Room at the Baylor Scott & White Hospital off Highway 71.
Over the next few days, Jock gradually made his way towards Llano through the brushy and rocky Texas Hill Country terrain. He kind of enjoyed sleeping outside and being out in nature.
His plan was to visit his Grandma at her place out in Castell, and hopefully she would help out her favorite grandson, Jock, as she had in the past.
With any luck, Jock would be there in a few hours - just in time for his birthday on Halloween.
Be sure to check back for next week's post with the finale of the story, which reaches a feverish pitch on Jock's birthday, Halloween night. You won't want to miss it.
Make sure you are a Subscriber to the Social Musings by Austin to receive an email notification when the episode drops. You can find the Subscribe form on the home page of the website here.
Until then, you can enjoy my original Halloween song from last year to get yourself in the holiday spirit: