Is Nelk running Justin Bieber's NFT project?
The A-List celeb is closely tied to the lucrative but controversial influencer group
In our previous article, we demonstrated that Justin Bieber’s recent NFT buying spree was funded by his involvement in the “inBetweeners” NFT project. Essentially, it turned out that expensive NFT purchases by Bieber were being funded by customer funds paid to mint InBetweener NFTs.
Despite this relationship, Bieber violated FTC rules and did not disclose his financial interests in promoting the project. While we were able to show that Bieber was involved in the project, the level of his involvement was unclear. It was also unclear who else was involved, and whether Bieber’s NFT purchases were part of a wider network of NFT promotion schemes.
It turns out that Bieber is indeed working with a larger NFT promotion scheme coordinated by a lucrative influencer company. Despite their success, this group has had its share of controversy due to their undisclosed financial relationships with unlicensed offshore crypto casinos and fake giveaway scams. So much controversy, in fact, that there is an entire subreddit with 8000 members dedicated to the group’s various questionable dealings.
I’m talking, of course, about the Full Send/ Nelk brand of social media influencers. Nelk, led by president John Shahidi and creator/head influencer Kyle Forgeard, has rapidly grown their business over the past couple of years. Using a combination of brash humor, partying, and big spending, Nelk has built itself into an influencer powerhouse generating tens of millions in annual revenue. According to Kyle, Nelk’s main product is the “Nelk lifestyle,” which he defines as:
“It started out meaning party hard, but now it’s evolved into, ‘Any activity you do, give it your absolute best,’” Mr. Forgeard said. “If you’re in the gym, you got to full send in the gym.”
Nelk has had more than their share of controversies. Last year, Youtube demonetized their channel after videos where Nelk encouraged fans to break COVID safety protocols. More recently, several reports have demonstrated that one of Nelk’s major revenue sources was Roobet, an unlicensed offshore crypto casino. The Nelk boys regularly shared videos of them gambling on Roobet’s site, winning and losing massive sums in every session.As is standard these days, Nelk saw no reason to disclose this financial relationship or to share that the money they were gambling with on Roobet was given to them for free.
Nelk was also tied to Wizza, a purportedly nonprofit sweepstakes company. It turns out that Wizza is funded by Roobet and that several of the giveaways promoted by the Nelk boys never actually happened. After these facts were revealed by Youtube investigators Coffeezilla and SomeOrdinaryGamers, Nelk broke ties with the Roobet/Wizza cartel. However, the team almost immediately pivoted to promoting a new offshore casino called PrivateBet. This relationship quickly ended after it was shown that Nelk’s president John Shahidi was intimately involved in covertly setting up Privatebet’s social media accounts.
These and other controversies didn’t stop Nelk from searching for new ways to make fast money. That search brought them to NFTs. And to Justin Bieber, who appears to be an integral part of Nelk’s web of false advertising and NFT market manipulation.
John Shahidi and Justin Bieber have been business partners since 2010
Full Send/Nelk CEO John Shahidi has been involved in the celebrity promotion game for years. Prior to joining Nelk, John and his brother Sam Shahidi (COO of Nelk) ran “RockLive,” which produced “celebrity-themed games” in collaboration with Mike Tyson, Usain Bolt, and others. Shahidi first met Bieber in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Bieber partnered with Shahidi to promote their new selfie app, “Shots.” From there, the company morphed into a video production company called “Shots Studios.”
According to Shahidi, Bieber was more that just a celebrity endorser; he was a core business partner:
“Justin is not just an investor, he’s a partner,” Shahidi said. “So he’s got to be on the same page as Sam and I. He’s got to really like the person. He’s got to appreciate their art, whether it’s comedy or music, and also like them as a person as well.” And there’s always a chance Bieber will appear in the creators’ videos as well, as he's done in the past. Bieber has also tweeted a few videos himself.
It appears this partnership has continued into the NFT space. Shahidi lists the inBetweeners project as one of “our NFT projects” on his Twitter account:
On January 23rd, Shahidi announced that he had become a “partner” in the inBetweeners project on their Discord server.
And the money trail bears this out- because Shahidi was one of the largest beneficiaries of the inBetweeners project.
Shahidi received ~$1 million in Ethereum from the inBetweeners NFT project
We went back and examined the flow of ethereum from the inBetweeners project to wallets other than Justin Bieber’s, then searched each address on Opensea and Etherscan. We found that John Shahidi received 327 Eth (~$1 million), the third-largest transfer of Eth from the inBetweeners wallet. The funds arrived over four transfers on 12/25/21 (77.8 Eth), 12/31/21 (34.6 ETH), and 01/04/22 (134 Eth and 80.6 Eth). Note that these transfers all occurred well before Shahidi stated in the inBetweeners Discord that he was a “partner” in the project.
Let’s take a look at Shahidi’s wallet:
It appears that the majority of the 550 Eth that have passed through Mr. Shahidi’s wallet came from the inBetweeners project. The second-largest source of funds was another NFT project called “Full Send Metacard” (more on this below).
The ties between Nelk and the inBetweeners project run deeper. Kyle Forgeard, the head influencer of Nelk, recently posted a video where he pretends to try using inBetweeners NFTs to get special treatment at a parking lot:
Where did Kyle obtain his InBetweener NFTs? Well, two of them were provided free of charge by the inBetweeners project. Two more were transferred in from John Shahidi and another unknown wallet. Kyle also paid to mint four inBetweeners. However, he’s not playing with his own money, because he received 15 eth ($45,000) from Shahidi’s wallet. He received another 38 Eth from Coinbase:
Nelk ran their own NFT project and paid Justin Bieber to “buy in”
Not long after the success of the inBetweeners project, the Nelk team rapidly generated their own NFT project called “Full Send Metacard” (FSM). In addition to the NFT itself, token holders were promised “exclusive access” to Full Send company projects. This was similar to the inBetweeners project, which promised token holders special access to Bieber concerts and events.
It appears that the inBetweeners helped fund FSM. For example, Kyle Forgeard paid 7 Eth to mint 2 FSM tokens (shown above) The money for the minting fees came from John Shahidi’s wallet less than one hour before the transactions were completed:
Similarly, Justin Bieber received 8.5 Eth from another Shahidi-controlled wallet just prior to his “purchase” of a FSM NFT for 6.4 Eth:
This didn’t stop the FSM social media team from hyping Bieber’s purchase!
It is interesting to note that after this transfer was publicly identified, Shahidi quickly changed the name of the account in an attempt to hide the transaction. It’s almost like they know what they are doing is wrong…
What this means and why it matters
Based on this new information, it seems clear that Justin Bieber has been working very closely with the Nelk team. However, neither Bieber nor Nelk have ever publicly disclosed their financial interests in promoting the inBetweeners project. The inBetweeners’ website makes no mention of the fact that Bieber is apparently the major recipient of minting fees from the project. Their Opensea page makes it seem as though the project is run primarily by the artist, Gianpiero, who “teamed up with” Bieber and Shahidi:
Clearly, these statements obscure the fact that Shahidi and Bieber received the largest payouts from this project’s minting fees- over $3 million worth. By not disclosing his financial interests in promoting inBetweeners, Bieber violates FTC rules. As shown in our previous article, Bieber later used funds from the inBetweeners to buy two inBetweeners on Opensea. This purchase, made with company funds, is an obvious attempt to manipulate the inBetweeners market and encourage more people to buy in. Both Shahidi and members of Nelk have promoted and pretended to invest in the inBetweeners as well.
Bieber also was paid by Shahidi to “buy” an FSM token at above-market value, which Shahidi later attempted to conceal. FSM had no qualms about hyping this fake purchase to their fans, likely leading to more people buying into their project as well. Again, this is likely an illegal practice that likely opens both Bieber and FSM up to legal action.*
Indeed, the whole situation is reminiscent of Nelk’s promotion of the gambling site Roobet. It was conclusively proven that Nelk’s influencers were not gambling with their own money when they promoted Roobet; the funds were “on the house.” The lack of transparency surrounding these projects enables influencers like Bieber to pretend to play the NFT game, using other people’s money. They take no personal financial risks while creating hype that encourages their fans to speculate on NFTs. And in doing so, they fleece the very people who admire and trust them.
Justin Bieber is apparently worth $285 million- apparently, that's not enough!
*Not a lawyer, so this is speculation based on my interpretation of FTC and SEC rules. The regulatory treatment of NFTs has not yet been established.