A Serial Tech Funding Scammer Takes Up Coding? – Krebs on Safety

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John Clifton Davies, a 60-year-old con man from the UK who fled the nation in 2015 earlier than being sentenced to 12 years in jail for fraud, has loved a profitable life overseas swindling know-how startups by pretending to be a billionaire investor. Davies’ latest invention seems to be “CodesToYou,” which purports to be a “full cycle software program growth firm” based mostly within the U.Ok.

The rip-off artist John Bernard a.okay.a. Alan John Mykailov (left) in a latest Zoom name, and a mugshot of John Clifton Davies from almost a decade earlier.

A number of articles right here have delved into the historical past of John Bernard, the pseudonym utilized by a pretend billionaire know-how investor who tricked dozens of startups into giving him tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars}.

John Bernard’s actual identify is John Clifton Davies, a convicted fraudster from the UK who’s at the moment a fugitive from justice. For a number of years till reinventing himself once more fairly lately, Bernard pretended to be a billionaire Swiss investor who made his fortunes within the dot-com growth 20 years in the past.

The Non-public Workplace of John Bernard” let it’s recognized to funding brokers that he had tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars} to spend money on tech startups, and he attracted a stream of latest victims by providing terribly beneficiant finder’s charges to brokers who helped him safe new shoppers. However these brokers would finally get stiffed as a result of Bernard’s firm would by no means consummate a deal.

John Bernard’s former web site, the place he pretended to be a billionaire tech investor.

Bernard would promise to take a position thousands and thousands in tech startups, after which insist that firms pay tens of 1000’s of {dollars} price of due diligence charges up entrance. Nonetheless, the due diligence firm he insisted on utilizing — one other Swiss agency referred to as The Inside Data GmbH — additionally was secretly owned by Bernard, who would invariably pull out of the deal after receiving the due diligence cash.

Quite a lot of clues recommend Davies has lately adopted at the least one different identification — Alan John Mykhailov — who’s listed as chairman of a British concern referred to as CodesToYou LTD, included in Could 2022. The CodesToYou web site says the corporate employs proficient coders in a number of international locations, and that its programmers supply “your final stability between pace, value and high quality.”

The crew from CodesToYou.

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, CodesToYou’s advertising and marketing supervisor — who gave their identify solely as “Zhena” — mentioned the corporate was not affiliated with any John Bernard or John Clifton Davies, and maintained that CodesToYou is a reliable enterprise.

However publicly accessible details about this firm and its management suggests in any other case. Official incorporation paperwork from the U.Ok.’s Firms Home symbolize that CodesToYou is headed by an Alan John Mykhailov, a British citizen born in March 1958.

Firms Home says Mykhailov is an officer in three different firms, together with one referred to as Blackstone Company Alliance Ltd. In accordance with the Swiss enterprise monitoring service business-monitor.ch, Blackstone Company Alliance Ltd. is at the moment the entity holding a decision-making function in John Bernard’s pretend due diligence firm — The Inside Data GmbH — which is now in liquidation.

A display screen shot of the inventory photographs and corporate-speak on John Bernard’s outdated web site. Picture: Archive.org

Additionally listed as a associate in Blackstone Company Alliance Restricted is Igor Hubskyi (a.okay.a. Igor Gubskyi), a Ukrainian man who was beforehand president of The Inside Data GmbH.

The CodesToYou web site says the corporate’s advertising and marketing crew lead is Maria Yakovleva, and the picture of this worker matches the profile for the LinkedIn account identify “Maria Y.” That very same LinkedIn profile and picture beforehand listed Maria by a distinct first and final identify — Mariya Kulikova; again then, Ms. Kulikova’s LinkedIn profile mentioned she was an government assistant in The Non-public Workplace of Mr. John Bernard.

Firms Home lists Alan John Mykhailov as a present officer in two different firms, together with Frisor Restricted, and Ardelis Options Restricted. A cached copy of the now-defunct Ardelis Options web site says it was a personal fairness agency.

CodesToYou’s Maria additionally included Ardelis Options within the work historical past part of her LinkedIn resume. That’s, till being contacted by this writer on LinkedIn, after which Maria’s profile image and any point out of Ardelis Options had been deleted.

Listed as head of enterprise growth at CodesToYou is David Bruno, a Canadian man whose LinkedIn profile says he’s founding father of a company referred to as “World Privateness Useful resource.” As KrebsOnSecurity reported in 2020, Bruno was on the time selling himself because the co-CEO of an organization referred to as SafeSwiss Safe Communication AG, and the founding father of one other tech startup referred to as Safe Swiss Information.

Safe Swiss Information’s area — secureswissdata.com — is a Swiss concern that sells encrypted e-mail and information companies. In accordance with DomainTools.com, that web site identify was registered in 2015 by The Inside Data GmbH. In February 2020, a press launch introduced that Safe Swiss Information was bought in an “undisclosed multimillion buyout” by SafeSwiss Safe Communication AG.

A cached copy of the Ardelis Options web site, which mentioned it was a personal fairness agency and included comparable inventory photographs as John Bernard’s funding web site.

When reached in 2020 and requested about his relationship to Mr. Bernard, Mr. Bruno mentioned the 2 had been enterprise companions and that he couldn’t think about that Mr. Bernard could be concerned in something improper. To this present day Mr. Bruno is the one individual I’ve spoken to who has had something constructive to say about Mr. Bernard.

Mr. Bruno didn’t reply to requests for remark this time round, however his LinkedIn profile not makes any point out of Safe Swiss Information or SafeSwiss — each firms he claimed to run for a few years. Nor does it point out CodesToYou. Nonetheless, Mr. Bruno’s former firm SafeSwiss is listed as one of many six “portfolio” firms whose companies are promoted on the CodesToYou web site.

In mid-2021, Bruno introduced he was operating for public workplace in Ontario.

“The Kenora resident is not any stranger to the federal government as he contributed to Canada’s new Digital Constitution, Invoice C-11, which is a brand new Cyber Safety coverage,” reported Drydennow.com, a information web site that covers Northwestern Ontario. Drydennow says the following federal election is anticipated to be held on or earlier than Oct. 16, 2023.

John Clifton Davies was convicted in 2015 of swindling companies all through the U.Ok. that had been struggling financially and looking for to restructure their debt. For roughly six years, Davies ran a sequence of companies that pretended to supply insolvency companies, however as a substitute merely siphoned what little remaining cash these firms had.

The very first entity talked about within the know-how portfolio marketed on the CodesToYou web site is known as “MySolve,” and it purports to supply a “multi-feature platform for insolvency practitioners.”

Mr. Davies’ fourth spouse, Iryna Davies, is listed as a director of one of many insolvency consulting companies within the U.Ok. that was a part of John Davies’ 2015 fraud conviction. Previous to his trial for fraud, Davies served 16 months in jail earlier than being cleared of murdering his third spouse on their honeymoon in India: Colette Davies, 39, died after falling 80 ft from a viewing level at a steep gorge within the Himachal Pradesh area of India.

Mr. Davies was charged with homicide and fraud after he tried to gather GBP 132,000 in her life insurance coverage payout, however British prosecutors in the end conceded they didn’t have sufficient proof to convict him.

The scams favored by Davies and his alter egos are sensible as a result of he by no means approaches buyers immediately; reasonably, buyers are incentivized to place his portfolio in entrance of tech companies looking for monetary backing. And all the very best cons start as an concept or chance planted within the goal’s thoughts.

It’s additionally a dependable rip-off as a result of firms bilked by small-time funding schemes not often pursue authorized motion, primarily as a result of the authorized charges concerned can shortly surpass the losses. On high of that, many victims will doubtless be too ashamed to confess their duping. Victims who do press their case in courtroom and win then face the daunting problem of gathering damages from a slew of ephemeral shell companies.

The newest Bernard sufferer to talk publicly — a Norwegian firm hoping to construct a fleet of environmentally pleasant transport vessels — is now embroiled in a lawsuit over a deal gone dangerous. As a part of that rip-off, Bernard falsely claimed to have secured $100 million from six different rich buyers, together with the founding father of Uber and the artist Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, higher often called The Weeknd.

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