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How Puerto Rico became a tax haven for high-flying crypto millionaires

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How Puerto Rico became a tax haven for high-flying crypto millionaires

Forget “What do you do?” or “Where do you live?” There’s only one question on anyone’s lips in Puerto Rico right now.

“‘How long have you been here?’ — it’s the first thing anyone asks,” said Keiko Yoshino, 34, who previously worked in Washington, DC, city government before moving to the island in March. “For the longest time, I was the newbie, but my brother moved in with me four weeks ago.”

For Joel Comm, the answer is seven months — when the 57-year-old and his girlfriend ditched Colorado for the gated community of Palmas del Mar on Puerto Rico’s southeastern coast.

“It’s still a new experience for me, but when you get here, you’re ‘the new guy,’ ” Comm told The Post. “Two weeks later, someone else is here and all of a sudden, you’re not that guy anymore.”

Many of them are here thanks to a near-irresistible combo — of legal and financial incentives, great weather and a critical mass of cryptocurrency gurus — that has been transforming the island like a gold rush. The surge is helping reshape Puerto Rico into America’s homegrown answer to Dubai.

Call it Crypto Rico. 

Brock Pierce at his home in Puerto Rico, where he is the de-facto leader of the crypto-championing movement.
Daniel Morris for New York Post

Both Comm and Yoshino came here for crypto gigs. He is a self-employed entrepreneur and podcast host, while she helps run the Puerto Rico Blockchain Trade Association, which hosted a week-long shindig in early December, timed for jetsetters to bounce down to the island after Art Basel Miami.

Among the boldfaced names on-island full-time are controversial YouTuber Logan Paul — who started his own NFT trading game, CryptoZoo and who is reportedly splashing out $55,000 per month on a home — and Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. She admitted she’d decamped to the Enchanted Isle from Silicon Valley earlier this year and has she’s been living off crypto investments.

Keiko Yoshino at Mueso de Puerto Rico
Keiko Yoshino left working in local government in Washington, DC, to be the executive director of the Puerto Rico Blockchain Trade Association.
Daniel Morris for NY Post

No one gets more attention, though, than Brock Pierce. The former child actor turned crypto evangelist, 41, is the de facto head of the crypto-championing movement here. He recently hosted Eric Adams on his jet when New York City’s mayor-elect jaunted down to check out the island for himself.

“What made Dubai into Dubai, or Singapore into Singapore, was, ultimately, the social, financial and intellectual capital there. Look at those places 50 years ago — they were basically nothing,” Pierce told the Post, rapid-fire in his enthusiasm. “But encouraging foreign investment into those regions, they made themselves into the smartest cities in the world.”

Youtuber and social media personality Logan Paul made the move of Dorado, Puerto Rico from LA in 2021.
Youtuber and crypto enthusiast Logan Paul made the move to Dorado, Puerto Rico, from Los Angeles, in 2021.
Larry Marano for NY Post

One way they could have scored such primo investments? Slashing taxes and red tape, a tactic that Puerto Rico has followed with gusto. Put simply, thanks to changes in the law, which are lumped together and known as Act 60, you can live there and keep two things: both your American passport and huge chunks of your earnings that Uncle Sam would otherwise grab.

Spend 183 days on-island each year, and you’re free of taxes on capital gains. If you operate a firm that exports its services from Puerto Rico — say, as a crypto consultant — you’ll pay a paltry 4 percent corporate tax rate. No wonder crypto types, already wary of centralized oversight and focused on cashing in fast and rich, have flocked here. 

The five-bedroom, seven-bathroom abode where Paul trained is located in the Dorado Beach East Community at the Ritz Carlton Reserve.
Paul, who has his own NFT game, reportedly pays $55,000 a month to rent his Puerto Rico home.
realtor.com

Pierce helped accelerate that move and now is like a one-man PR machine for Puerto Rico. The “Mighty Ducks” actor said he first fell in love with the island in 2014 and began plowing his crypto fortune — reportedly more than a billion dollars — into real estate and starting real-world businesses. He’s soon to open an art gallery — working name: Smart Gallery — in a building he owns in Old San Juan. Run by his wife, Crystal, it’ll sell both virtual and IRL artworks.

“I don’t meet everyone who moves down here, but I meet a lot [of them]. My name is pretty well known within the community,” he said, though he isn’t BFFs with Facebook exile Haugen, “We’re one degree of separation, and we’re connected to a lot of the same people. Her name is constantly brought up.” 

Giovanni Mendez photographed at his office in Puerto Rico
Attorney Giovanni Mendez specializes in crypto issues in Puerto Rico.
Daniel Morris for NY Post

The true turning point wasn’t Pierce’s arrival a pair of but near-simultaneous bad news/good news events: the devastation of Hurricane Maria and a bull run in Bitcoin, both of which happened toward the end of 2017. More than 140,000 locals left the island after the storm, which saw real estate prices plummet — creating an ideal opening for the virtually rich, flush with crypto, to swoop in and snap up a sunny home or two.  

Now the island is in phase two of the Crypto Rico movement, again powered by a virtual bull market, according to Giovanni Mendez. At 34, the San Juan-based attorney said he’s the oldest person at the crypto-focused law firm he runs.  

Childhood actor Brock Pierce, known for his work in the bitcoin industry and co-founder of Blockchain Capital.
Pierce is reportedly a billionaire thanks to his cryptocurrency investments.
GDA via AP

“If I had more space to hire people, I would,” he told The Post, noting that applications for Act 60-related benefits from new arrivals are double now what they were in 2017.

Among them is Theodore Agranat, 45. He grew up in Austria before dropping out of high school at 15 and becoming an entrepreneur. Agranat now runs an early-stage Blockchain investment fund called Alpha Crypto. After a trial stint in Puerto Rico early this year, he and his wife moved there in June with their kids, ages 18, 14 and 5, after selling their house in Massachusetts. They brought just a couple of suitcases.

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies during a hearing before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capital Hill in December.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has said she is living off her crypto investments in Puerto Rico.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

“My five-year-old daughter can continue swimming, instead of crying when the local pools shut down. Almost every other day she tells me ‘This is the best day of my life,’” Agranat said.

But he’s also aware of controversies swirling around wealthy, mostly white people like him who are accused of a 21st-century return to colonialism via the back — or virtual — door. 

“I identify more with the working class, hardworking person than with people who buy Lamborghinis and yachts,” Agranat said, noting that his own hardscrabble beginnings, as well as having a Korea-born and multiracial kids, likely offer him a broader perspective than some. 

Theodore Agranat at his home in Puerto Rico.
Theodore Agranat, who runs an early-stage Blockchain investment fund, moved his family from Massachusetts to Puerto Rico in June.
Daniel Morris for NY Post

The tension between high-living expats surfing the crypto wave and many locals is understandable: 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s population lives in poverty versus a 13.4 percent national poverty rate for the US. Much of the pushback has been channeled through an anonymous, grassroots organization called #AbolishAct60 which rages on social media against cashed-up incomers. Representatives for the group did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Brock Pierce certainly champions a do-gooding cred — “I do not intend to take … a penny from the island when I leave, and any profits I make here will be reinvested in the island or given to charity,” he said — and most of his acolytes tout similar high-minded goals.

Brock Pierce photographed at his home in Puerto Rico
Pierce said that “any profits I make here will be reinvested in the island or given to charity.”
Daniel Morris for NY Post

Attorney Mendez, for example, said that a net of 40,000 jobs has been created over the last decade as a result of the umbrella of incentives.

But, at least at the outset, this new community was white and bro-heavy; they even mulled nicknaming their efforts Puertopia, or “eternal boy playground,” a tin-eared appropriation of the local dialect. Now, though, crypto passes the taxi driver test: Is it something a cabbie starts gabbing about on a quick ride? 

“Every Uber driver I ride with, 90 percent of them know about crypto,” said Yoshino, who leads seminars for the Puerto Rico Blockchain Trade Association. “And the guy who drove me to my first event pulled over the car and came to the class I was running.”

Cryptocurrencies and Puerto Rico Flag
It’s not just cryptocurrency that is enchanting Puerto Rico — the blockchain is also proving appealing as a business venture.
Shutterstock/Lukasz Stefanski

Digital marketing vet Juan Carlos Pedreira is from Puerto Rico and said the big uptick in uptake isn’t just fortune-hunting snowbirds. He calls out twentysomething locals, like a waiter at his fave spot in San Juan. “Every time I go in there he asks me about some new coin platform or wallet he’s into,” said Pedreira. “I told him, ‘The people you’re serving here are probably millionaires, but you have such knowledge that down the road, you could be better off than the people you’re serving.’”

Pedreira also stresses that the Crypto Rico scene isn’t just about digital currency like Bitcoin — catnip for high-risk investors — but also includes blockchain, which effectively offers unbreakable encryption that could be used for everything from product authenticity to voting without fear of fraud or other interference.

Residential buildings in the Condado neighborhood of Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The crypto surge is helping reshape Puerto Rico, including San Juan, into America’s homegrown answer to Dubai.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

That’s the aspect of crypto that most interests 53-year-old Raul Moris, a social worker from Yauco on the south coast, who notes that the endemic corruption problems here have primed people to embrace such ideas. He has self-funded a program to help spark local interest in the crypto boom, using his graphic design skills to mock up pamphlets and translating the Anglo-heavy lingo into criollo-friendly Spanish. 

“The idea is to educate people and give them access to what Mr. Brock has,” he said, framing Pierce and his cohort differently: Puerto Rico isn’t lucky to have them; they’re lucky to have discovered the Enchanted Isle. “We don’t seem them as colonists. They’re more like migrant refugees who are just looking for a place not to give the government the money they can use for other purposes.”

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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