Sophia Barnes

DC Businessman Sued After Allegedly Spending $112K of Crowdfunding Money on Bars, Uber, Hirshhorn Visits

A crowdfunder who raised more than $284,000 on Kickstarter is facing a lawsuit alleging he spent the money on personal expenses and never delivered the product that consumers ordered.

The businessman behind Sivil, Inc., Willard Simon, allegedly spent more than $112,500 at bars, restaurants, clothing stores, visits to the Hirshhorn Museum and more. The shirts he promised to thousands of people were never manufactured, prosecutors say.

Simon set up a page in June 2015 on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, which allows the public to make a small investment in an entrepreneur’s idea, usually in return for a token of thanks or a finished product. Sivil, Inc. promised backers a high-performance athletic shirt if they gave more than $34 to the campaign. The two people who pledged over $1,000 to the campaign were promised 40 shirts.

The campaign smashed the original $25,000 goal, bringing in $284,028, according to the Kickstarter page. By the website’s rules, entrepreneurs that meet their goals get the money to create a product. Simon, through the page, promised the shirts would be delivered in November 2015.

But, as the lawsuit was announced Tuesday, the 3,626 sponsors has never received their shirts, consumers and the D.C. attorney general’s office say.

According to the lawsuit, Simon initially kept in contact with the backers. He blamed production delays. In a private post to backers referenced in the lawsuit, he blamed a “serious issue with customs,” despite promising on the product page that the shirts would be produced domestically.

Backers kept getting posted promises that the shirts were coming. One unnamed person received a refund.

“Basically $110 donation to unethical guys,” one backer, whose screen name is Joe, commented on Kickstarter.

Prosecutors say Simon made no effort to develop the athletic shirts, despite promises that all the money was going to create the apparel.

Thousands of dollars from the company’s coffers were used by Simon to “maintain his metropolitan lifestyle,” prosecutors said. Records show Simon spent $28,834 dollars on dining out, visiting bars and purchases at liquor stores; $4375 at clothing stores and received $40,793 in cash transfers.

Prosecutors hope the courts will force Simon to pay back his Kickstarter funders and pay up to $1,000 for each violation of consumer protection law. They also have sued Simon for court costs.

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