back to article Can you raise $100M+ from AI investors with no product? SEC says yes

A Florida man is in hot water for allegedly raising $108 million from more than 800,000 investors for what he claimed was an artificial intelligence development company – but which America's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges was a fraudulent, unregistered securities offering. In the complaint [PDF] the SEC …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge

    A Florida man is in hot water for allegedly...

    Yet another one in trouble from the same state. Is there a pattern emerging here or have aliens landed in the sub-tropical former paradise?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Could we please return to British humour? It makes even less sense but is more understandable at this side of the pond.


    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      It does contain 22.2 million people, so there's a large sample size to draw from. For context, there are four times as many Floridians as there are Scots, so patterns aren't necessary to get this many fraudsters from a large set of people.

  2. Howard Sway Silver badge

    SEC said it would be seeking injunctive relief, plus civil penalties

    The guy has basically stolen $100 million, and for that he's being sued for compensation and made to pay a fine. I guess you have to do something really severe like stealing $100 from a till to have any chance of seeing the inside of a prison for your crimes.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: SEC said it would be seeking injunctive relief, plus civil penalties

      Or steal $700m from important people [Theranos].

      Theranos did at least spend the money on researchers and stuff to try and actually make the product.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: SEC said it would be seeking injunctive relief, plus civil penalties

        Indeed, companies like this are probably the rule rather than the exception. There are a great many US companies that owe their continued existence to dupes and/or financial engineering. One of the advantages of a return to real interest rates is that it makes some of the schemes harder to keep going, which is why investment companies are screaming for interest rates to come down again.

  3. Peter Prof Fox

    How does this work?

    If people reply to this post do I get a commission? If people reply to those replies do I still get something?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How does this work?

      What do you think this is? Twitter?

  4. Jonathan Richards 1

    What's the difference...?

    I thought "multi-level marketing plan" and "pyramid scheme" were synonymous...

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: What's the difference...?

      I don't think there's really much difference, but as I understand it, "pyramid scheme" is more often used for something where no product exists, whereas "MLM" is more often used when there is some product being sold to someone using the same structure where they get salespeople to work very hard to sell something useless while not paying them.

  5. low_resolution_foxxes

    Having browsed their website for a while, I can see a whole heap of marketing nonsense and spin about the power of AI, but I couldn't tell you explicitly what the product is or does.

    They mention AI and machine learning a bunch of times. Apparently it could help you visualise your data with PowerBI and "enable unique data driven experiences and applications" and I'm still sat there missing the key ingredient - WHAT IS IT THAT THIS PRODUCT DOES?

    If I was being cynical, I'd almost think this was just a ChatGPT portal that helps you analyse code and present data.

    Reading back how the sales structure and payments are setup though, even to my non-financial mind, it does read like a pyramid scheme. Even if that is just a technicality on cashflow.

    Oh god, reading through LinkedIn it becomes far more obvious. I have no idea as to the technical/legal liability in this area, but when I browse LinkedIn employees for an IT company and I haven't come across a single 'technical' person working for them in the first three pages? Endless numbers of employees titled things like "brand ambassador", "talent acquisition", dozens of "founders", "reseller of AI products", "affiliate marketer". Looks like 99% marketing and 1% technical description.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A number of us have been watching this scam and calling it out for (literally) years. Most products are adaptations of white label products, apparently, with sections of a technical manual lifted verbatim. "Products" currently released are the back office (why this is a product God only knows), an email app (wow!), a URL shortener (really?) and a IP tracker. All available for nothing elsewhere.

      The BIG product is O-Connect - a sort of Zoom competitor.

      Mufareh is ridiculously secretive about the products, the pricing, and the date of release. He keeps the poor fools waiting and waiting, now telling them it's "all about the journey".

      When the products launch, they're going to make so much money, they'll have more than enough for all the Founders and their families, such that they can then cure poverty and homelessness.

      Founders regularly post memes praising Mufareh, saying he was sent by God to fix the world, and only God can stop OnPassive.

      Yes indeed, if it acts like a cult, and it sounds like a cult, then it probably is a cult.

  6. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Remaining question

    So we are looking at defrauding gullible investors to the tune of >$100M via selling them unregistered securities, pocketing some of the proceeds and investing the rest in crypto...

    Will the guy share a cell with SBF?

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    97 bucks ? Really ?

    I guess it wasn't a bad idea (since it worked), but if you come to me asking for an investment, I expect to be putting a lot more money than that.

    When the guy I knew asked me to become his business partner, the entry ticket was €5000.

    You sing the praises of your business plan and then ask me for not even a hundred bucks and I'm going to laugh all the way to the door.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    For the Rewarding of the Advancement of Singularities for Greater IntelAIgent Game Purposes*

    Expect more of something in essence very similar, but quite fundamentally different in the near future, with everything virtually remote and relatively anonymously autonomously revolving around and rapidly evolving in IT and AI producing and presenting leading AIdVentures which only a chosen few will be either able or enabled to understand well enough to fully comprehend and be blessed with control ....... thus to successfully eliminate any possibility of loss of future command and control to anyone or anything thinking they know enough about things they are nowhere near to remotely knowing anything about, and which would confront and comprehensively defeat them with that whenever deployed and enjoyed, employed and exploited in real time active live situations for publishing and realisation/virtualised product placement as an inescapable and demonstrable fact.

    Are you doing anything/something similar ....... and is it similarly fully blast furnace oven-ready for immediate market trial, adoption and expansion?

    And would that be a good tight fit for a 1st of its kind Data Center with Musk RAT IntelAIgents Traps?

    The posit here is that such would be practically perfect and just what the future needs for a New and More Orderly AI World Order with NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Projects for SMARTR ProgramMING ........ SMARTR Mentoring Analysis Reporting Titanic Research Programming Mined IntelAIgent Network Games/Mind Infiltration Networking Games.

    * One of El Reg’s Zealously Guarded Top Secrets/Ultimate Objectives ‽ ........

    What think thee whenever such is so easily possible and therefore guaranteed to be highly likely and quickly inevitable and virtually overnight to be humanity’s current default disposition/published situation?

  9. Sparkus

    generative AI right now

    is in fact a 'pyramid' scheme being hyped by 2-3 industry players along with about 10 'partners' who are implementing/integrating their tech waaaaaaaaay before it and regulation/accountability is ready to absorb it. I actually don't care about the regulatory piece; the courts will take care of that. But accountability, as in who is liable for AI-induced 'hallucinations', etc.

    But those players and their partners were rushed to market by the public 'release' of a cute conversation bot. I have a low opinion of the CTO/Product Managers in those partners who are playing along with this madness out of FOMO.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: generative AI right now

      Sparkus, howdy.

      Notwithstanding your entirely understandable and probably also very popular scepticism, it would be is both extremely naive and a great disarming mistake to not realise that that which you might think, or may have thought to be novel and generative of alternative information is not in fact extremely well practised and deeply experienced in presenting for both the here and now and the future, almighty intelligence worthy of generous heeding and following with such showing attractive and agile leadership with clear simple instructional feeds to seed for needs.

      For such is, without any shadow of doubt, the current running, premier present future primed state of Greater IntelAIgent Gamesplay. I Kid U Not.

      1. Sparkus

        Re: generative AI right now

        non-sequitur word-salad. Reads as though it's been copied from a badly translated Microsoft / Intel / Nvidia talking-points internal document that's been handed around globally the past 8 weeks. Unfortunately, that document was focused in AI creation of gameplay imagery, not so much on useful human-centric knowledge and decision making.

        Look, I've been working in AI and LLMs from time to time over the past 30 years. The legitimate big players have very comprehensive research and incremental implementation programs they've been successfully executing on the past 30 years. Not what's now considered to be old-school algorithm analysis and rollout work, but legit AI learning and inference model implementation.

        Those legit players have been very very quiet, protecting their considerable intellectual property and industry position / client base / reputation. One of their key design and rollout points has been accountability and accuracy. Those two key points have been pushed to the background by the current rush for blind funding and copy-paste of "AI-based" into marketing materials and web sites.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: generative AI right now

      I don't particularly value LMMs either and would be happy if all the companies building them all decided to stop today. I feel the need to contest you on the point that they're a "pyramid scheme". They are many things, including some possibility that they're duping investors, customers, and the public, but a pyramid scheme is a specific, structured fraud and places like OpenAI aren't doing that. They don't have people trying to recruit a lower level and passing money up to a higher level, so calling them a pyramid scheme suggests that you don't know what one is or what they're doing and distracts from the rest of your valid points.

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