The Doom That Came To Atlantic City Scam
Kickstarter and crowdfunding are very popular ways to raise money for projects. Anything that involves money is going to attract scammers. One of these scammers that was recently caught is Erik Chevalier.
He was involved in a Kickstarter campaign to create a board game called The Doom That Came To Atlantic City. The Doom That Came To Atlantic City was a Monopoly-inspired game. It was launched as a Kickstarter on May 7, 2012 and concluded on June 6, 2012 bringing in over $122,000.
Here is how the scam worked:
Erik put together a catchy introduction to the game and started the Kickstarter campaign.
The Doom is a labor of love and terror from three exceptional talents. It is the brainchild of artist Lee Moyer, inspired by his love of the Cthulhu Mythos and disdain for a certain board game that shall not be named. Game designer Keith Baker is best known for the Origins Award winning card game Gloom, and he brings the same dark sense of humor to the devastation of Atlantic City. Keith and Lee have enlisted the help of their friend Paul Komoda to design some of the more eldritch visual elements of the game. His talents can be seen on-screen in the prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing and Cabin In The Woods. He brings that vision and long association with H. R. Giger to his designs of the Great Old Ones.
People paid $122,874 to fund the project. Then Erik made the following statement:
From the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with The Doom that Came to Atlantic City as only our first of hopefully many projects. Everyone involved agreed on this. Since then rifts have formed and every error compounded the growing frustration, causing only more issues. After paying to form the company, for the miniature statues, moving back to Portland, getting software licenses and hiring artists to do things like rule book design and art conforming the money was approaching a point of no return. We had to print at that point or never. Unfortunately that wasn’t in the cards for a variety of reasons.
This was news to the people that forked over their money and the artists that were involved in the project.
When Lee and I first heard this news from Erik, it came as a shock. We’ve been working on this game for over a decade. In 2011 we had it ready to go to the printer with Z-Man Games, until a change in ownership dropped it from production. Based on the information we’d been receiving from the Forking Path we believed that the game was in production. It’s a personal and financial blow to both of us, but what concerns Lee and I is that people who believed in our work and put their faith in this Kickstarter have been let down… Lee and I don’t know exactly how the money was spent, why the backers were misled, what challenges were faced or what drove the decisions that led to the cancellation of the game. Not only did we not make any money from the game, we have actually lost money; as soon as we learned the true state of affairs, we engaged a lawyer to compel The Forking Path to come forward to the backers and to honor its pledge to issue refunds.
Erik did not refund peoples money and the FTC got involved. Here is what they found:
Despite Erik’s promises he did not provide the rewards, nor did he provide refunds to his backers. In fact, Erik spent most of the money on unrelated personal expenses such as rent, moving himself to Oregon, personal equipment, and licenses for a different project.
After being charged by the FTC, here is the settlement Erik made:
Under the settlement order, he is prohibited from making misrepresentations about any crowdfunding campaign and from failing to honor stated refund policies. He is also barred from disclosing or otherwise benefiting from customers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of such information properly. The order imposes a $111,793.71 judgment that will be suspended due to Chevalier’s inability to pay. The full amount will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.
This type of scam is going to become more and more common as time goes on. Kickstarter needs to hold people like Erik legally accountable for the claims they are making on their crowdfunding platform. It takes years for the FTC to act and during this time the scammers can just spend the money.
Before you give money to anyone on Kickstarter make sure you research the backgrounds of the people running the campaign.
Here is a little of Erik’s past:
Erik was a part of Joystick Labs – an independent game development incubator in Durham, NC – which formed five companies (mine included). Erik formed a company called Inari, Inc. and got $20,000 in seed funding to build a social pinball game. By the end of six months, the money was gone and there was nothing to show for it. Erik’s investors for Inari got completely burned. From what we saw, most of the money went towards buying stuff on Amazon.
In the end, a company called Cryptozoic Entertainment stepped in and made the game (Affiliate Link). They did not receive any of the money from the Kickstarter campaign.