WASHINGTON (7News) — Yuki and Art Williams purchased 3,000 Ethereum coins in 2014 during a pre-sale offered by the Ethereum Foundation.
They used Coinbase and 1.5 bitcoin to make the purchase.
They claim a password was created but the very important JSON file which acts as a private key to open a crypto wallet never completely downloaded online.
"The instructions were to leave your computer on for an hour and a half and as the progression bar showed it populating the JSON file would appear. Unfortunately for us, it did not appear,” says Art Williams who lives in the District.
They got the coins in their wallet and can see them but can't open the wallet.
Art Williams tells 7News the Foundation’s pre-sale website said to email the Foundation and it would send a wallet backup in an email that contained a backup JSON file. They never got that email.
The Williams reached out to the Foundation based in Switzerland and handed over proof of purchase and screenshots of the issue.
When the Foundation didn’t hand over a backup Json file, the Williams hired a law firm in Switzerland.
In this March 15th, 2018 email, William's legal team said it was able to speak to the Foundation’s attorney who said they are trying to recover the JSON file.
Two weeks later, the family's attorney said the Foundation's law firm stated they're trying their best to recover the JSON file, but it takes time.
“All they have to do is send me that JSON file," adds Williams.
In a Swiss conciliation authority meeting, a settlement offer of 2,750 ether coins was discussed according to William’s attorney but it didn’t go anywhere.
Finally, the Foundation's legal team wrote, “We continue to believe that Ethereum has no liability for lost wallets, passwords, and Private Key.”
7News reached out to the Ethereum Foundation and got a no comment.
“Thanks for reaching out to the crypto-community and trying to figure things out for this fellow,” says Mitchell Moos, the CEO of cryptobriefing.com
Before the global pandemic, 7News reached out to other crypto-currency experts who agreed to weigh in on the missing JSON file.
"So, the complication here is that unlike a traditional centralized service Ethereum might be subject to different kinds of rules when it comes to dealing with this information. They may not even have access to that information anymore,” adds Moos.
"This is experimental technology. Many things can go wrong. Even with the most technology-minded people. So certainly, don't put funds at risk you can't afford to lose,” says Joon Ian Wong, the owner of Cryptographic Media and former managing director of coindesk.com.
"I have never heard anyone admit straight up, on or off the record at all, that there is a vault or safe or something with everyone's JSON files,” adds Taylor Monahan, the Founder & CEO of mycrypto.com.
The Williams' 3,000 coins are now worth millions.
"Devastating, to say the least. Obviously, that's life-changing money,” says Williams.
The I-Team says the Williams next move is to hire a law firm to help them file a lawsuit in court in Switzerland to demand that the Ethereum Foundation hand over a JSON file.
The international court is not cheap. The Williams family has set up a gofundme.com page to help cover court costs and you can check it out here: Help Needed To Access Our Ethereum Wallet