Scamming people is like art, Detroit rapper Selfmade Kash once said.
First get their bank identification number. Then get their account information. Then go to a Walmart or a gas station ATM and take out hundreds and hundreds of dollars, which can then be thrown in the air like confetti or fanned out in the parking lot as though it were a canvas, as Selfmade Kash sometimes did in his music videos.
“You’ve got to know how to paint,” Selfmade Kash, using an apparent metaphor for his hustle, told a Detroit talk show host on a March 2017 taping of “The Stewe Show." “You’ve got to be an artist. It’s like art.”
The host, who goes by Stewe, was impressed by Selfmade Kash’s brazenness. He appeared to openly rap and brag about “swiping” people’s credit card information, seemingly with impunity. Kash even called himself the “GOAT swiper,” using an acronym for “greatest of all time.” He liked to show off the golden credit card that dangled from his neck on a golden chain. In the spot where the name goes, the card was emblazoned with “SELFMADE KASH."
“First off," Stewe said, “you’ve got no problem saying all of this.”
Not at all, Kash said. “A lot of people come to me saying, like, bro, you gonna get indicted!" he said. “But, you know, they don’t know what I got going on. You feel me? They don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like I’m way smarter than a lot of people. ... I know how to do this.”
Internet commenters who watched the interview were intrigued, as well. He is “self made by stealing other peoples money?" one questioned. Some were amazed that they had “never [seen] a person tell on they self so much.” And also, had the feds really not caught on to him yet?
“I just don’t get though,” one said. “Where are the police?”
Eventually, as it turns out, they came around.
Selfmade Kash, whose real name is Jonathan Woods, was arrested and indicted this week in federal court on multiple charges of wire fraud, aggravated identify theft and more after the feds apparently watched his YouTube videos and stalked his Instagram page, where the emoji-savvy prosecutors figured out that the combination of symbols he regularly used was code for “GOAT swiper.”
They made clear they did not think that he was the GOAT.
“The defendant, Jonathan Woods, claimed to be sophisticated at credit card fraud when, in fact, he is not,” the feds wrote.
As prosecutors describe him, “In his music, and on social media, Woods purports to be the greatest ‘swiper’ of all time — meaning, that he is prolific at credit card fraud.” Kash, 25, calls his style “Swipe Music,” and sings about credit cards and money so much that another interviewer once asked him, “Is it a new genre of music?” Kash said yes.
It was apparent in his music videos. Cut-up credit cards and piles of cash litter the floor. Sometimes the bills are dumped in a bathroom sink. In the music video for “511718,” he goes shopping for clothes, picks up some fast food, goes to Walmart and eventually settles on a dock by the water, where he drinks cough medicine while fanning out all the money. “I ain’t just swiping,” he raps against an ’80s synth pop beat. He is also giving other people “hope," he says.
The feds did not appear to agree. In fact, he was giving people bad bank identification numbers, they claim.
According to the indictment, “because of his reputation as the ‘swipegoat,' people frequently contact Woods on social media to inquire how to engage in credit card fraud,” prosecutors wrote. “Woods, in turn, sells information on how to commit identity theft and credit card fraud.”
He would allegedly sell the interested scammers his intel on bank identification numbers, or BINs. He appeared to love BINs, as the feds note. His album “BINs and Bitcoin" contains songs such as “Scam Likely,” “In Swipe I Trust,” “Swipe School,” “Bins” and, an ode to his favorite BIN number, “511718.” According to the indictment, this is the BIN for Chase Manhattan Bank.
But the feds claim even his salesmanship was a scam, because the information he was allegedly giving people about how to commit credit-card fraud was fraudulent itself.
“It was ... part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that the defendant, Jonathan Woods, sold his purported expertise on how to conduct credit card fraud to people over the Internet, such as what BINs to use when, in fact, the information was worthless and many of the BINs were nonexistent,” the indictment notes.
The GOAT swiper was allegedly charging people between $400 and $600 for the bad intel, according to the indictment. And he was allegedly found in possession of more than 15 “unauthorized access devices," cellphones containing the credit card and debit card account numbers of numerous people without their knowledge. The feds allege that he had stolen numerous people’s personal identifying information but do not say how he used it. The indictment doesn’t charge him with stealing any money with that information.
Kash doesn’t have an attorney listed in federal court records. He was arraigned and ordered temporarily detained Thursday ahead of a detention hearing Friday.
In his 2017 interview with Stewe, the host asked him whether he was planning to continue his hustle for life. “Are you going to turn that money into the music?” he asked.
Everything he did, the swiping, the scamming — it was all for the music, Kash said. The message behind it all was “motivation, struggle, for those who want to be self-made," he said.
The only thing he couldn’t figure out, however, was why his hometown wasn’t showing him love.
“The city don’t want to embrace me,” he said, “and I don’t know why.”
“Detroit,” he pleaded at the end of the interview, “don’t give up on me.”