The CEO of a company that became a symbol of the startup world’s dark side was indicted Thursday by the US Department of Justice on a charge of defrauding his employees.
The DOJ alleges that Isaac Choi, the 36-year-old founder and CEO of WrkRiot, falsely claimed he had the money to pay workers. He then defrauded them by issuing forged wire transfers from a US bank. The indictment also alleges Choi lied about his education and industry experience.
Choi’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The story came to light last year when a former employee of Choi’s, Penny Kim, wrote a post on Medium saying she’d been scammed by an unnamed company, “Startup X.” Other employees later identified the company as WrkRiot, a now defunct job-seeking platform said to rely on machine learning.
Kim’s post was widely talked about in tech circles as a gripping cautionary tale that revealed the nightmare flip side of the Silicon Valley dream.
“My main goal [in publishing the post] was to show people the other side of what Silicon Valley and startups are like,” Kim told Quartz last year. “Everyone has hopes and dreams. I did. I moved out to California to achieve that dream.”
According to Crunchbase, Wrkriot won $130,000 in seed funding on August 1, 2016, the same month the story broke.