You’ve apparently never heard of Eren Niazi, but you’ve absolutely heard of his friends.
Anyone who has anytime met Niazi has heard the belief about them. They accommodate the two best important Steves in Silicon Valley: Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Jobs, the artist of the iPhone, took the adolescent Niazi beneath his addition and fabricated time for him aloof one anniversary afore his afterlife from blight in 2011. Facebook artist Mark Zuckerberg is additionally a friend; he arrive Niazi to accompany him to the Nasdaq on the day he rang the aperture alarm to mark Facebook’s IPO and was devastated aback Niazi told him he couldn’t be there.
If you’re a football fan, you additionally apperceive of Niazi’s business partner, Patrick Willis, the All-Pro linebacker who aback and shockingly larboard the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 to accompany a career in tech alive alongside Niazi at his startup, Open Antecedent Storage. Willis said alive with Niazi at Open Antecedent was a bigger account than annihilation he had able on the field.
You’ve apparently never heard of Niazi, but you apperceive the companies he’s helped build. He helped cipher the websites of companies like Facebook and eBay, and his company, Open Antecedent Storage, counted as audience a who’s who of tech companies, alignment from Yahoo to Sony to AOL.
“I abandoned like to booty boxy jobs,” Niazi said in a promotional video from 2012. “The harder the job, the best aggressive applications, the newest of addition is what I’ve consistently been circuitous with, and that’s what I adulation and acquire a affection for.”
These were belief Niazi told, anyway. Those who spent abundant time about him generally begin they didn’t analysis out, but not until too late.
Niazi is a angular man with atramentous beard who about wears thin, frameless glasses and blatant clothes. Niazi was accepted for his absorbing and agreeable manner. He charmed the women about him and afflicted the men he formed with. He could affix with anyone and accretion their trust.
It didn’t aching that Niazi generally mentioned his family’s all-inclusive fortune. With his blatant clothes, his animated jewelry, the huge checks he wrote, his roaring BMWs and Ferraris, and his arty NFL sidekick, Niazi had the accessories to bout the angel he approved to project.
He cut an absurd figure, to be sure, but annihilation is accessible in Silicon Valley. It’s a acreage of meritocracy, those who assignment there consistently say, area the abandoned affair that affairs is your talent, not your pedigree. In this world, investors and admiral don’t affliction area you came from; they affliction abandoned area you’re going. They acquire money to spend, and they appetite to bet on the abutting big thing. The beneath the resume, the fresher the account ability be.
Who would catechism Niazi’s bona fides? Who alike cared?
Most didn’t. Not until September 29, aback Niazi was arrested for acid up a home he was active in, acute assorted bullets through a football helmet beat in a Super Bowl and putting the activity of a adolescent in danger. That’s aback Willis, the buyer of that helmet, began to catechism Niazi, the actuality of his larger-than-life tales, and what the tech controlling had done with his millions.
Earlier this month, Inc. appear on a accusation filed in Santa Clara Canton Superior Cloister on Willis’s behalf. The accusation accuses Niazi of artifice and aperture of fiduciary duty. The clothing seeks added than $2 actor in acknowledged absolute acreage and yet-to-be-determined budgetary damages. A second, ahead unreported accusation was filed by Willis added south, in the Superior Cloister of San Benito County. The accusation raises the aforementioned allegations and seeks at atomic $1 actor in acknowledged absolute acreage damages.
To added than a few bodies in Niazi’s past, what he did to Willis was not as hasty as abundant as it was the acme of a career, a career that was not spent coding and acid business deals, but rather, conning, scamming, bilking, over-charging, shortchanging, and lying to those about him. At atomic two above business assembly acquire gone to the FBI with advice about Niazi, although the bureau can neither affirm nor abjure the actuality of an investigation.
These bodies knew Niazi was not what he fabricated himself out to be, not remotely. But alike they didn’t apperceive the abounding admeasurement of what he was able of.
Now that they know, they are afraid. A cardinal of sources Inc. approached for this adventure agreed to adduce abandoned on action of anonymity or beneath to adduce altogether, citation the abhorrence that Niazi would seek to retaliate afterwards his absolution from jail, which took abode Thursday.
The abstraction that he would go afterwards bodies he already declared accompany is all too plausible, says one such source. “He has no activity for any of these people. There’s no answerability or anguish there.”
Heir to the turtleneck
The commodity told of an aggressive administrator who had founded Open Antecedent Accumulator in 2001, aback he was in his mid-20s. The adolescent company’s barter ranged from Friendster to Facebook and NASA, the commodity claimed. With Facebook alone, “Open Antecedent Storage’s efforts for the amusing media behemothic fetched $5.5 billion in acquirement for open-source accumulator and commodity hardware,” the commodity said.
It was a aggregation on the fast clue to success, but its run adjourned as the Great Recession arrived, the commodity said. “Investors fought to ascendancy the enterprise, yet it went bankrupt. Niazi was out.”
But like Jobs, his mentor, Niazi did not accord up on his company. In 2013, he relaunched Open Antecedent Storage, and quickly, the additional abundance of the abutting best up area the aboriginal had larboard off. “Since its re-entry aftermost year, the Silicon Valley-based aggregation has awash 50 actor shares to clandestine investors (with no appraisal disclosed), launched 12 new artefact lines, and exceeded its acquirement targets in six months,” the commodity said.
The adventure declared a aggregation with all the accouterment of Silicon Valley success. It was absolutely the affectionate of aggregation that would atom the absorption of an NFL superstar active in the tech basal of the apple and advancing the end of his football career.
Willis and Niazi met anniversary added ancient in backward 2014, according to Willis’s lawsuits and accessible accounts ahead accustomed by both individuals in the press. The two met by adventitious while both were active in Santana Row, a contemporary arcade centermost and residential circuitous in San Jose.
Whenever he met anyone, Niazi was quick to reel off his outsize accomplishments as a tech administrator and scene-maker. To a football amateur with no acquaintance in business or tech, those belief were intriguing. “Patrick was easy,” the antecedent said. “He was attractive for addition to coach him in business as he able to airing abroad from football.”
The two neighbors bound became friends, and afterwards aloof a few months of alive anniversary other, they additionally became business partners.
Willis abutting the aggregation in aboriginal 2015, aural weeks of his retirement from football. During his busy career with the San Francisco 49ers, Willis had racked up 950 tackles, been alleged the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and been alleged to the Pro Bowl in seven of his eight seasons in the NFL. His accomplished ability was allowance advance the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. Yet all that paled abutting to the pride he acquainted aloft abutting Open Antecedent Storage, Willis said in an account in September with CNBC.
Willis came in as an broker of Open Antecedent Storage, a lath affiliate of the company, and its new controlling carnality admiral for partnerships. In his role, Willis was in accusation of interviewing job candidates, Mashable reported. And as he had been by his teammates in football, Willis was able-bodied admired by his new colleagues.
“Patrick is the greatest guy I’ve met,” said Gracie Gato, an agent of Open Antecedent Accumulator from March until May. “He’s the sweetest guy in the world.”
Getting to apperceive Willis, however, was not easy. Anytime Willis was in the office, Niazi kept the retired apostle abandoned from anybody else. Aback addition addressed Willis, Niazi and he would buzz in anniversary other’s aerial afore Niazi assuredly batten for his business partner.
Willis rarely larboard Niazi’s sight. Area one went so did the other. The two accompany and business ally alike had analogous white gold and blue-jeweled rings on their fingers. Niazi showed off his new acquaintance to anybody he knew as avidly as he had retailed his anecdotes about Zuckerberg and Jobs — admitting from a distance.
“The way Eren advised Patrick was array of like a pet. He would array him about like ‘Look at me, I’m with a celebrity,’ ” Gato said. “It was absolutely disgusting. It was disgusting. He exploited the hell out of Patrick.”
Eventually, chat of Willis’s abutting Open Antecedent Accumulator accomplished the tech press. On May 18, Mashable appear a aglow contour of Willis and the company. The adventure went viral and dozens added accessories were accounting about the football legend’s additional act in Silicon Valley. Aloof one day later, chat of the adventure accomplished another, added austere entity: the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
After actuality assassin as an artist in March and alive at Open Antecedent Accumulator for added than two months, Gato had become apprehensive of her company. In all of that time, she had not accounting a distinct band of code. And Niazi advised anybody about her, with the barring of Willis, with an capricious temperament. He would appoint and blaze advisers on a whim, several sources said, and he was aloof as acceptable to cut your bacon as he was to accord you a accession or promotion.
Gato herself had accomplished that aberrant behavior. Shortly afterwards actuality hired, she was answer (with no accession in salary) to administrator of chump support, but she never did anything. There were no barter to abutment because there was no artefact to sell. Never apperception the 12 artefact curve Niazi claimed in his account with TheStreet.
“He wasn’t absorbed in authoritative money or accepting any blazon of sales whatsoever. It seemed like he was benumbed out whatever money he was on,” Gato said. “It seemed like he aloof kept us on the bulk to attending legit.”
Suspicious, Gato set up a appointment call, allurement a acquaintance to ask her colleagues basal sales questions about Open Antecedent Storage’s services. She doubtable Open Antecedent Accumulator wasn’t legit, but she bare to acquisition out, Gato said.
“When [my friend] asked them, ‘What absolutely do you guys do?’ everybody was abashed over themselves,” Gato recalls. “That’s aback I begin out this accomplished affair was a lie.”
As far as Gato could gather, Open Antecedent Storage’s abandoned antecedent of assets appeared to be Willis’s NFL fortune. Gato abdicate on May 6 and never cashed her final check.
“I knew my paycheck came from Patrick. I banned to acquire addition dollar,” Gato said. “I knew his fate, addition bankrupt NFL amateur — I couldn’t accord with that.”
While the blow of the apple was aflame to see how Willis would do in the tech industry, Gato grew afraid for the NFL star.
“Everything about Eren Niazi is fake,” Gato wrote in a agenda beatific to the FBI. “He is a Venture Capitalist [sic] affliction nightmare. He defaults on debts, never pays them. He is now application a retired NFL player’s money, and he has no product.”
Along with the FBI, she accomplished out to account outlets. No one heeded Gato’s warnings. She gave up. For months, she chock-full aggravating to acquaint bodies until November 4, the day she saw the Inc. address about Willis’s lawsuit, at which point she took to Twitter to acquaintance this reporter.
Gato, however, was not the aboriginal being to acquaintance the FBI about Niazi. In 2015, Glenn Carnahan had done the same.
‘He could advertise snow to an Eskimo’
Carnahan is the arch banking administrator at Ridgeline Entertainment, a TV assembly aggregation based in Auburn, California. Carnahan, alternating with his business accomplice Doug Stanley, had appear up with an abstraction to actualize a TV approach based appropriate in Facebook’s Account Feed.
As the two scouted for a development abutting that could body out their vision, they were referred to Dodecahedron, a aggregation endemic by Niazi. As he did with anybody he met, Niazi bound swept the brace off their feet. He told them about the allegedly cardinal role he’d played in Facebook’s aboriginal days: Years earlier, afore the aggregation went public, Niazi had helped Mark Zuckerberg get the amusing arrangement aback online afterwards his own engineers messed up its code, he said.
Niazi additionally promised to acquaint Carnahan and Stanley to Wozniak, the guy who created the aboriginal Apple computers. With all of his connections, Niazi addled them as aloof the appropriate guy to body out Smackdab, the name they gave to their idea.
“He could aloof advertise snow to an Eskimo,” said one antecedent who formed for Niazi at one of his companies in the aboriginal 2010s. “He had a way with bodies of abutting with them and accepting them to accept things.”
Ridgeline Entertainment entered into an acceding with Dodecahedron. Niazi’s aggregation would be amenable for putting calm Smackdab, booty affliction of the hosting, book pertinent patents, and bear consecutive updates for the site.
“There was flattery,” Carnahan said. “We were a antecedence to him and that fabricated us feel bigger and assurance him.”
Dodecahedron delivered the site. In a promotional video from 2012, Stanley can be apparent claiming his aggregation assassin “the arch artist of Facebook, Eren Niazi,” to baby-sit its creation.
“I’ve helped artist some of the world’s better websites, including Facebook, Shutterfly, eBay,” Niazi says in the video.
But afterwards the absolution of the website, Niazi’s abutting bootless to accommodate the promised updates, Carnahan said. As time passed, the accord became strained. Ridgeline capital its updates, and as Carnahan looked added carefully into the matter, he started seeing red flags he’d absent earlier.
One aboriginal assurance was the hosting. Dodecahedron was charging Ridgeline $10,000 a ages to host Smackdab, but afterwards delving into the specifics, Carnahan begin the hosting provider Niazi was application answerable aloof $1,500 a month.
More alarming was Niazi’s administration of the apparent filing. Rather than account Carnahan and Stanley as the applicants, Niazi put his own name down, a archetype of the certificate anachronous July 2012 shows. Carnahan was able to bolt and actual the filing afterwards a affair with the apparent advocate that did not absorb Niazi.
“He approved to accomplish himself the buyer of the bookish property,” Carnahan said.
Niazi had kept himself at the centermost of advice breeze to mislead them and accusation aggrandized prices, and he had accounting the arrangement in a apart abundant way to absolve his actions, Carnahan said.
“He bled us in a actual advised manner, and he managed it actual able-bodied by careful us from the bodies we should’ve been talking to,” Carnahan said. “He preyed on our ignorance.”
All in all, Dodecahedron answerable Ridgeline about $700,000 for its services. “We overpaid Eren by $500,000. That’s a lot of agreeable that we could’ve developed with that,” said Carnahan, acquainted that although Ridgeline continues to operate, it is a carapace of what it could acquire been. “We could’ve done a lot.”
Carnahan capital to sue, but Niazi had already ashen so abundant of their money that the ally chose not to squander their actual assets on a confusing lawsuit. Instead, he put calm a blubbery binder and went to the FBI’s Sacramento office, Carnahan said.
The FBI said it can neither affirm nor abjure the actuality of an investigation. However, abounding of the companies and bodies Niazi claims to acquire formed with abjure any involvement. Facebook and eBay both said they acquire never been audience of Niazi or Open Antecedent Storage. As to whether Niazi and Zuckerberg anytime had the accord Niazi claimed, a Facebook agent did not acknowledge to a appeal for comment. Wozniak, however, denies anytime accepting met Niazi. “I do not know, nor apperceive of, this person,” he told Inc. via email.
Another aggregation Niazi claimed to acquire formed with is Yahoo. Niazi brought up Yahoo aback he met with Swee and Ozkan Niazi, his aunt and uncle, one day in April 2007, according to cloister abstracts from 2009.
At the time, Niazi was still active the aboriginal Open Antecedent Storage. Niazi told his aunt and uncle of the “rapid growth” the aggregation was experiencing but he said that it was “short of cash” as it approved to ample a “significant adjustment from Yahoo.” Niazi bare their advice in the anatomy of a $200,000 loan.
Niazi promised Swee and Ozkan that he would bound acknowledgment them their money. The abutting day, Niazi chock-full by his uncle’s appointment to aces up the check. Weeks and again months anesthetized afterwards Ozkan and Swee accepting any of their money back. Finally, on September 4, Niazi paid them a allocation of their loan, a analysis for $30,000 listed as “loan-partial.” Three weeks later, Ozkan contacted Niazi.
“Hello Eren, were you able to get that band of credit?” asked Ozkan in an email. “I am MAXed out on my acclaim cards. I allegation the funds aback ASAP.”
“Hello Uncle, I will alarm you tomorrow,” responded Niazi afterwards that day. “I am aggravating my best and do not acquire any acclaim curve accessible to me……”
For added than two years, Ozkan haggled with Niazi gluttonous the butt of the loan. In the meantime, Open Antecedent Accumulator filed for bankruptcy. The aggregation listed about $1.5 actor in assets and about $6 actor in liabilities, according to defalcation filings from 2007.
Finally on December 7, 2009, Ozkan and Swee filed a academic accusation adjoin Niazi. Emails included as affirmation in that accusation showed that Open Antecedent Accumulator never fabricated a auction to Yahoo; the Sunnyvale aggregation did booty commitment of some OSS servers but alternate them afterwards authoritative a purchase.
Like Willis would years later, the brace sued their nephew for aperture of arrangement and antithesis fraud. They approved amercement of $170,000 additional absorption and acknowledged fees. At the trial, Niazi declared that the transaction was a business accord amid Ozkan and OSS, not a claimed loan.
Ozkan and Swee won their case and afterwards won a claiming brought alternating by Niazi. Collecting their money, though, was a altered story.
Reached by buzz in November, Swee said she was not able to adduce as she and her bedmate were still activity through acknowledged proceedings. This anchorman asked if Niazi had yet to pay aback the $200,000 he had adopted from his relatives. Quickly, afore blind up, Swee said no.
A aisle of destruction
The lawsuits from Willis adduce Niazi of ambiguous the football amateur into advance his money into companies registered in Nevada. The plan was for Willis and Niazi to abound their fortunes as co-investors, accumulation their assets. The lawsuits adduce that while Willis upheld his allotment of the agreement, Niazi did not.
Willis is now gluttonous abounding buying of six backdrop that Niazi purchased throughout Santa Clara and San Benito via the Nevada companies. Some of the backdrop were purchased by companies that name both Willis and Niazi as partners. One of the backdrop — a august abode in Hollister, account added than $1 million, according to the canton appraisal — was purchased through a Nevada business that lists Niazi as the sole member, one of the lawsuits alleges.
“Niazi fabricated that acreage his home, apery that he endemic it and purchased it with his own money,” the San Benito accusation claims. “Of course, he never paid Plaintiff annihilation in hire for the months he lived there.”
Aside from the $3 actor in acreage disputes, Willis’s attorneys said they do not yet acquire exact abstracts for the budgetary amercement they will be seeking. One of Willis’s attorneys told Inc. they acquire assassin argumentative accountants to investigate but ahead the amercement approved at balloon will be significant. One antecedent who formed with Niazi in the accomplished year said the bulk may be amid $13 and $14 million.
Earlier this week, Niazi retained a new attorney, who addressed the football player’s allegations adjoin her applicant on Tuesday. “I’m agitated by the abstraction that there are bodies who are adage and speaking ill of some of his business dealings,” said Katy Young, a accomplice at Ad Astra Law Group.
Young met with Niazi for the aboriginal time on Tuesday and batten with him for a cardinal of hours. Afterwards the meeting, Adolescent said that she accomplished out to the attorneys who are apery Willis.
“Eren is absorbed in advancing to an accordant resolution as possible,” Adolescent said. “He absolutely cares for Patrick Willis and absolutely never meant to abuse him. It’s a aerial case because there is a accord that hangs in the balance. Unclear whether they’ll anytime be able to adjust that.”
As to the claims fabricated in Willis’s lawsuit, Adolescent said, “Mr. Willis’s complaint is actual accepted in its artifice allegation, and the aphorism apropos argumentation artifice in a civilian ambience is that artifice has to be pled with particularity. The plaintiff, Mr. Willis in this case, would acquire to clear the who, what, when, why and how of the declared ambidexterity that took place.”
The adventure that resulted in Niazi’s jailing took abode at a abode amid 50 afar south of San Jose, in a tiny California boondocks of 35,000 bodies declared Hollister. It is a huge, eight-bedroom home with a brick driveway the breadth of a football field. The home sits on a vast, 16-acre lot. There is a ample American banderole that after-effects in advanced of the home’s four-pillared entrance. The abode is nicknamed the White House, and it is clashing any of the baby homes that beleaguer it. It’s one of the backdrop beneath altercation in Willis’s lawsuit, the one Niazi allegedly bought with Willis’s money while advertisement himself as sole owner.
Residing in the abode with Niazi was a woman who has afterwards acquired an adjustment of aegis adjoin him from San Benito Superior Court. (Another woman has additionally acquired such an order.) The woman’s adolescent adolescent was with her in the abode that night as well, according to a antecedent who has announced with her subsequently.
That night, Niazi acceptable a adolescent “to ache and to be inflicted with bottomless concrete affliction and brainy suffering,” according to the case brought adjoin him on account of the accompaniment of California. He acclimated a Smith and Wesson 10mm handgun, and he “willfully and unlawfully absolved a firearm in a grossly behindhand address which could aftereffect in abrasion and afterlife to a person,” the abstracts read.
“He aloof cool out,” said the antecedent who batten with the woman who was in the abode with Niazi that night.
“He affective his gun and again started acid holes in the bank like a commando up and bottomward the hallways,” adds the source, who visited the abode afterward the shooting. The antecedent acclaimed the atramentous scuffmarks and aphotic ammo holes on the walls that were larboard by Niazi and were still arresting a few canicule afterwards the shooting.
Niazi took several shots at the walls and out of the windows of the home. He again went into a allowance in the home area Willis kept several $.25 of memorabilia from his eight-year NFL career. Among the accessories was a 49ers helmet that the antecedent said he believes is the aforementioned one beat by Willis during his Super Bowl XLVII actualization adjoin the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.
“He dead that helmet. There’s several ammo holes in it,” said the source. “It’s not replaceable.”
On Thursday, November 17, Niazi was appear from bastille afterwards argumentation no challenge to gross and behindhand use of a firearm and accordant to column $50,000 in bail. The added accusation adjoin him, adolescent chance with use of a firearm, was dismissed. Beneath the altitude of his release, Niazi charge booty medications for bipolar ataxia and cannot acquire a firearm.
Thomas Worthington of the Worthington Law Centre, the advocate apery Niazi in his bent case, said his applicant had had a brainy breakdown. Beforehand that night, Niazi had been taken to the hospital on a alleged 5150, an automatic psychiatric hold. The acid bacchanalia occurred abandoned afterwards Niazi was released, Worthington said.
“I’m assertive from aggregate that I advised that he absolutely had no absorbed to abuse anyone whatsoever, on that accurate day,” said Worthington.
“What he anticipation he was accomplishing was attention his family, and in my opinion, it was a artefact of his broken brainy activity at the time,” Worthington said. Worthington said he has objected to allegation that Niazi is amateur to angle trial. Niazi has the appropriate to a board trial, and that is what they acquire demanded, Worthington said. Niazi’s sentencing is set for December 15, and abomination acquittal has been granted, the advocate said.
“Going aback further, these issues about investments and whether he carefully cheated any investors — from what I acquire abstruse about this man is that he is a acceptable person. There is no almanac that he has anytime been in agitation in his activity in a bent way,” Worthington said.
“I accept that as we abide to analyze this we will apprentice that his brainy action contributed to the decisions he fabricated and the accomplishments that he took apparently in all those years,” Worthington said. “I do not anticipate that he carefully bilked bodies of money.”
Given Niazi’s continued history of abetment and deceit, however, those about him are afraid to address off all of his accomplishments to factors above his control.
“He got begin out, and he didn’t acquire a way out,” said a above aide who has accepted Niazi for abutting to a decade. “The escape plan was to go nuts. But he’s not nuts. He’s a actual acute man.”
Published on: Nov 18, 2016
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