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American accused of $14.5 million swindle once set up shop in Dublin

The story of a businessman who once set up shop in the Digital Hub, and now faces a possible 120-year jail sentence.

brickeyFB Marty Layne Brickey Source: Facebook

A MISSOURI MAN whose gaming company once operated from Dublin’s Digital Hub, could face a possible 120-year jail sentence for allegedly defrauding investors out of $14.5 million.

He denies all charges against him.

Marty Layne Brickey, a 45-year-old Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy and certified amateur pilot, is accused of procuring hundreds of thousands of dollars each from investors, and transferring much of it into his personal coffers.

Part of the operation involved allegedly falsely promising investment by celebrities such as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, according to a federal indictment against him.

Assistant US Attorney Steven Mohlhenrich claims that Mr Brickey swindled investors out of millions, lying to them, taking their money, and then ignoring their appeals for repayment.

But Mr Brickey’s lawyers say he’s just another victim of the financial crisis, a small business owner being unfairly persecuted by the American government.

This is the story of an extraordinary, multi-million-dollar journey that spanned seven years, stretched from China to Chicago, and stopped off at the Liberties.

Big Collision

Irish heats of the Third Annual World Cyber Games File photo of people playing games at the Digital Hub in Dublin. Source: PA WIRE

Marty Brickey, from the small Missouri city of Republic, owned and ran six companies between 2006 and 2014, in Texas, Missouri, Brazil, Australia, China, and Dublin.

Big Collision Games, registered in Dallas, opened up shop in Ireland in the summer of 2009, according to Companies Registration Office (CRO) records, describing its aims as:

To carry on generally the business of design, marketing, licensing and development of technology and intellectual property in the area of online games services.

Big Collision got a spot in the “cluster” at the Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties neighbourhood, although the extent of their actual activity was minimal.

The Digital Hub told TheJournal.ie that a representative (whom they cannot name) toured the site in July 2009, the company applied for a place in August, and their tenancy agreement began that October.

By December 2009, they were listed among the 97 companies operating there, but a spokesperson for the Digital Hub says they never actually occupied their office space.

According to a statement sent to TheJournal.ie by Mr Brickey’s lawyers, Big Collision came to Dublin with “the intent to set up a support office there”, after securing a deal with the online game publisher Gamigo, to produce a title called “Online Soccer Champions.”

OSC1 Screenshot from test version of Online Soccer Champions. Source: Courtesy of Tim Colwill

Meanwhile, 9,000 miles away in Perth, Western Australia, another Brickey company – Interzone Pty – had shut down, without notice, locking out employees.

Several workers made claims about back pay, as reported by ABC News in Australia at the time.

They had been working on the immediate precursor of Online Soccer Champions – an MMOG (massively-multiplayer online game) called “Interzone Futebol.”

Interzone Futebol was intended to launch in the time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

However, when closed beta testing – usually one step before release – was announced on 21 June, the tournament was already 10 days old.

Source: Jason Hutchens/YouTube

The impact of Interzone’s collapse in Perth was devastating for its employees.

Tim Colwill, an Australian games journalist who worked as a designer for Interzone in Perth, told TheJournal.ie that the experience had left many of his former colleagues “bitter and angry.”

Interzone’s Brazil and China staff were probably the hardest hit of all…
We heard multiple horror stories from our friends in Brazil and China about the days and months following their abrupt…closures, including people who had to foreclose on their houses, people who were hospitalised from stress and depression…

Brickey’s business partners throughout much of this time were Greg Chadwell, a former Assistant City Administrator in Republic, John Putnam, an orthapaedic surgeon in nearby Springfield, and Mike Turner – Vice President of Interzone.

They are not named as defendants in the federal indictment against Brickey.

Picture 19 Mike Turner, then Vice President of Interzone. Source: Tim Colwill

Colwill describes Turner, who worked from the office in Perth, as “blindly loyal” to Brickey.

Turner never seemed malicious…I never got the sense that he felt what he was doing was wrong, only that he was doing his job…
He was difficult to get along with, but he made an effort to socialise and get to know the staff he was managing.

He was “businesslike and aloof,” Colwill adds.

Chadwell and Brickey may as well have been developing toothpaste or sanitary napkins for all the enthusiasm they had towards the product.
It was abundantly clear that [they] were Big International Businessmen who were very much in it for the money.

Chadwell, he says, “didn’t get along well with any of the rank-and-file, didn’t seem to know how to relate to them.”

He would often stay for a week or two at a time, turning his desk so that he could see the whole office, and nobody else could see what he was doing in the corner.


Source: Ring Mod/Vimeo

In the end, seven former Interzone workers went to Australia’s Fair Work Commission, and filed an unfair dismissal case against Interzone, but it petered out.

Although it doesn’t form part of the federal indictment, the acrimonious way Interzone left Australia seems to have had serious consequences for Brickey and his partners, thousands of miles away.

Back in Dublin, management at the Digital Hub became aware of the controversy in Perth, in February 2010, a spokesperson told this website.

The license agreement with Big Collision Games Limited was in place at that time, although The Digital Hub office was yet to be occupied by this client. The agreement ended in March 2010.

However, when asked what the circumstances surrounding the company’s exit were, a spokesperson for the Digital Hub said, “Any information surrounding client contracts is commercially sensitive.”

And more than a year later, the collapse of Brickey, Chadwell and Turner’s Australian operation would rear its ugly head back in America, in at least one documented case.

A drink at a bar, and a $100,000 debt

PA-12267026 The Chicago skyline, where Brickey met PB in a bar, and persuaded him to invest $100,000. Source: PA

According to documents published by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Securities Department, in January 2011, for example, Brickey met a man in a bar in Chicago, named only as “P.B.”

Brickey persuaded him to buy 100,000 shares in Big Collision, at $1 per share.

These documents also allege that Brickey, Chadwell and Putnam told PB his investment would be used to finish off production of Online Soccer Champions, and that he would double his money.

In 18 months, he could elect, at his sole discretion, to have the company buy his shares. He was guaranteed $2 a share, but was told that he might even get $5-$9 a share.

Five days later, PB wired $100,000 to an overdrawn account belonging to Big Collision Games, to which Brickey and Chadwell had access.

Here’s what the Illinois Securities Department allege happened to the money:

  • More than $55,000 was transferred to Big Collision, and two other companies run by Brickey
  • At least $51,000 went into the personal bank accounts of Brickey, Chadwell, Putnam and Brickey’s wife
  • The rest was spent on hotels, flights, website services, restaurants, shopping, phone bills, and credit card payments.
  • Within two months, less than $1,000 of the $100,000 investment remained.
  • By 5 July, it was all gone.

When PB read online about Interzone’s collapse in Australia, he tried to pull out of the investment.

The Securities Department documents claim that he was ignored or met with delays and promises of imminent further funding which would allow the game to go to market and make money.

Just over a year after that meeting in a bar in Chicago, Big Collision Games folded.

Nationwide Ireland Source: PA WIRE

Meanwhile, 4,000 miles away in the IFSC, the company had hired leading law firm A & L Goodbody to provide secretarial services.

But at the end of 2011, Goodbody ended their involvement with Big Collision, noting that the Americans hadn’t been responding to their letters.

Big Collision Games didn’t file an annual return for 2010 or 2011, and the company was dissolved in Ireland in May 2012.

‘A hard-working American entrepreneur’

brickeyFB2 Marty Brickey Source: Facebook

The federal case against Mr Brickey is filled with stories like those of “PB.”

Approaches made, promises given – verbal or written, or both – investments of up to $300,000 each across six companies run by Brickey and his business partners: Interzone, Big Collision, Spectacle, MasterTitle, Zoonik, Studio Avenue.

In some cases, Mr Brickey is accused of using the prospect of imminent investment and support from celebrities to leverage other investors.

Celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal, a Sheikh in Abu Dhabi, even Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

But in the end, the whole thing amounted to almost nothing. Assistant US Attorney Steven Mohlhenrich paints a devastating picture:

Between in or around January 11, 2008, and the present, Brickey received investment funds totalling more than $14.5 million from individual investors.
None of Brickey’s companies brought a video game to market, and the total revenue of Brickey’s companies during this time period was approximately $2,281.97.

Less than €3,000 in revenue, after $14.5 million in investment.

Mr Brickey has hit back, however, with his side of the story.

His lawyers speak of a “hard-working American entrepreneur” doing his best to stay afloat, but being battered by the waves of a global economic crisis.

In a statement sent to TheJournal.ie, they said Brickey – who has pleaded not guilty to all charges – was involved in a “legitimate business venture.”

As with all business ventures, it carried risk and was subject to national and international economic conditions over which it had no control. Unfortunately, the venture did not succeed…

Mr Brickey’s failure, they say, was not unique, with thousands of companies falling victim to the “economic conditions beyond their control”, which were unleashed in 2007.

Even those most responsible for the financial collapse that led to the worst national and international recession since the Great Depression have managed to elude prosecution under the banner of ‘too big to fail.’
The government has turned its focus on small time business people who we believe are guilty of nothing more than trying to achieve their part of the American dream.

‘Unwilling to let go’

colwill Former game designer Tim Colwill, in a 2010 ABC news story about the collapse of Interzone. Source: Jason Hutchens via YouTube

Tim Colwill, in Sydney, only met Marty Layne Brickey once, but talked with him over email a lot.

Brickey constantly maintained that he was suffering as well as a result of Interzone tanking, that he was the real victim.
Talking about the toll it was taking on him, and how nobody could possibly understand what it was like to be in his position, and how much he had sacrificed.

But ultimately, Colwill says, it was his former employer’s judgement that led to the collapse of Interzone in Australia.

[He] was absolutely unwilling to let go of the company…
After so long without a steady line of funding, anybody else would have folded the company, salvaged as much good will as possible, and done everything they could to look after their employees – putting them first, at all costs.

Mr Brickey is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, 13 counts of money laundering, and seven counts of failing to pay employment taxes.

If convicted, he could face a combined prison sentence of 120 years. He denies all charges.

At the end of August, the District Court of Western Missouri agreed to a continuance of his case, and Mr Brickey is on pre-trial release until a jury decides his fate in April 2017.

Documents:

United States of America vs Marty Layne Brickey

Hearing of the Illinois Secretary of State, Securities Department

Lichwa & Craig vs Brickey (Las Vegas investor fraud lawsuit, settled out of court)

Comments are disabled on this piece because of open legal proceedings. 

Read: How a group of hackers and traders made $100 million – using press releases>

Read: Irish Stock Exchange warns investors about ‘too good to be true’ scams>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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