An Oregon mushroom grower told the CEO of online trading platform Robinhood that he would skin his children while he watched, as payback for investment losses the man claimed to have sustained, federal prosecutors allege.
Christopher David Michalski, 38, is charged with interstate communication of threats, a felony, for posting numerous tweets over the course of the past year vowing “physical violence and murder” against Robinhood’s top brass and employees, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday and first obtained by The Daily Beast.
In one example cited in the filing, Michalski tagged @AskRobinhood on Twitter and wrote, “I dream of a world where your bodies are strung from light posts. I really want nothing more than to make you beg for your lives for what you did to me. You’re all so fucked, and you’re all gonna fuckin die.”
Michalski is also accused of posting photos of himself firing assault weapons at a shooting range, demanding, “Where’s the money you stole from me, dead bitch?”
Last month, Robinhood’s director of threat assessment and risk intelligence contacted the FBI, “concerned about the continued and escalating nature of the violent threats that were directed at the company and its employees and the potential for a violent onsite altercation,” the complaint states. Michalski, who runs a business in Salem, Oregon selling gourmet mushrooms, was arrested on May 5, court records say. He does not yet have a lawyer listed in court records, and a voicemail message The Daily Beast left at a number listed for Michalski’s company went unreturned. Reached by phone, Michalski’s wife confirmed her husband’s arrest but declined to comment further.
Robinhood, an online discount brokerage and stock trading app, spawned what came to be known as “meme investing,” with young, tech-savvy investors causing wild swings in stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment by planning massive coordinated trades on sites like Reddit. Some made fortunes. Others lost them. robinhood, to one-time Wall Street darling that went public in August 2021, has itself recently taken its own financial hit, with shares dropping some 70 percent since the IPO. Users have dropped by 10 percent, and the company is in the process of shedding nine percent of its 3,800-strong workforce.
It is not uncommon for people to take out their frustrations on social media. But in the eyes of the feds, making threats on social media to commit mass murder is not necessarily just “trolling.” Ace The Daily Beast previously reportedScott Merryman, a former US Army paratrooper, was arrested in January after posting threats on Facebook that he planned to assassinate President Biden. The posts were disturbing enough that the Secret Service sent agents to intercept Merryman in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel in Hagerstown, Maryland, just under two hours from the White House. There, Merryman—who had a loaded magazine for a .45 on him and a spotting scope in his backpack—allegedly told the agents he was “coming for his bitch ass sleepy Joe.”
In Michalski’s case, an FBI affidavit attached to the criminal complaint says he first began targeting Robinhood on May 9, 2021.
The first tweet, posted anonymously under the handle “@goldshroomsand1” and included in the affidavit, was comparatively understated.
“If anyone is interested, Robinhood’s headquarters is in Menlo Park, CA,” it read. “85 Willow Rd. They’re near the Timothy Hopkins Park and the Willow Park Campus. I worry people will go there in person to politely air out their grievances.”
The account then went quiet on the subject until Feb. 28, 2022, when @goldshroomsand1 replied to a tweet by @AskRobinhood, saying, “Just wondering how many dead financial terrorists I need to collect to redeem the thousands of dollars you stole from me .”
That same month, the affidavit says @goldshroomsand1 posted several other tweets along the same lines. One said, “Robinhood defrauded the Wall. Robinhood had a great fall. All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, couldn’t unfuck my rifle from their dead assholes, ever again.”
Another read, “Can’t enjoy the 10s of 1000s you stole from me if you’re all fuckin dead.”
On March 1, 2022, @goldshroomsand1 tweeted a picture of a rifle with a scope, again tagging Robinhood, along with the caption, “Q: How many financial terrorists are going to have to die for me to get back the money you stole from I? A: All of them. All of them have to die.”
The tweet followed another, posted about 45 minutes earlier, reading, “1099 = the number of dead bodies I’m gonna leave in my wake if you don’t give me back the money you stole.”
Throughout the month of March, @goldshroomsand1 kept at it, making sure Robinhood was tagged in each violent tweet, according to the affidavit.
“Imagine having your whole family killed just bc you wanted to work for Robinhood,” said one.
On March 25, 2022, @goldshroomsand1 took his grievances straight to the top, tagging Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev in a tweet, writing, “I’m gonna make you beg me to stop skinning your children in front of you.”
The next day, @goldshroomsand1 tweeted, “The saddest part about your candlelight vigil? There won’t be any surviving friends and family to cancel last minute.”
Last month, @goldshroomsand1 tagged Tenev and Robinhood in a tweet accompanied by an ABC News report about a mass shooting in San Jose, California.
“Police can’t save you,” it said.
The Robinhood security team contacted the FBI, who unearthed additional tweets by @goldshroomsand1 which included photos that appeared to have been taken at a shooting range. In one, a man can be seen aiming a rifle, with the words, “The government has been abundantly clear with us that forgiveness is not something they endorse, at least when it comes to #studentloans. Little secret: there’s no forgiveness in my heart, either.”
FBI agents subpoenaed Twitter for user data associated with the @goldshroomsand1 account, matching the IP address from which the account was created to data supplied by Robinhood, which identified Michalski as the only Robinhood customer with that IP address, according to the affidavit.
FBI agents also tracked down the shooting range seen in the photos @goldshroomsand1 had tweeted, spotting the facility’s name on the lane dividers.
“I spoke with the owner and employees at Tritac who confirmed the images posted by Twitter user @goldshroomsand1 were of Tritac’s range,” Special Agent Peter A. Jackson wrote in the affidavit. “Additionally, they confirmed Michalski was a customer at Tritac having used their range from him on dates around when the images were posted by @goldshroomsand1. Twitter posts by @goldshroomsand1 indicated the user was a white male based on images and posted messages. Michalski’s profile included the name of a woman identified as his spouse of him.
If convicted, Michalski faces up to five years in federal prison. A Robinhood spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.