Losing £100,000 In A Business Scam

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Today’s a special one.

I was compelled to put together a document demonstrating the nefarious dealings of a business partner of mine some time ago.

This story was never going to see the light of day outside of the lawyers.

But now, by changing names and adjusting a couple of things – I want to share the story of the demise of a relationship I was once in.

I’ve kept as much as I can true to the original document I wrote for the lawyers whilst protecting all parties involved.

Buckle in and enjoy :p

How Ryan Harwerden and I know each other

It really pains me to write a report like this.

But I do need to. In order to apply for voluntary credit liquidation I need to demonstrate the business was being badly run – so given what I do, it made sense to turn it into a blogpost. To a) prove to the liquidators I was not at fault and b) protect people from being a victim of Ryan as I was.

My name’s Deepak Shukla – and this is my story.

Ryan acted like my friend until he saw that our relationship might break down.

He then launched a coordinated takedown of the money, relationships and more of the business we set up together.

The business has been left in debt, owing money to our creditors to include but not limited to: Stripe, HMRC, staff and several clients.

I’ve lost around £100,000 – and over the coming blog posts will demonstrate in detail the evidence that I’ve amassed to substantiate my claims.

But first of all, I’d like to begin by discussing our relationship.

I think it’s important you see this comes from a place of understanding and significant history between us.

I run the Pearl Lemon Group and have worked hard to build an ethical and honest business online. Feel free to sign up to my 75,000-word newsletter here which discusses my personal life.

I’m an open book.

Now back to Ryan and me:

Ryan now heads up a different business and he and I were former business partners in ********** from Jan 20** – March 20**:

Google Search View

We verbally agreed 50/50% split and were both directors of the company

Myself being the 100% shareholder until we proved the business model worked and then we’d split up the company whilst I retained ownership of the brand.

Ryan learned all about lead generation from me

Here’s a video of him reviewing the course he bought:

Now I want to open by saying a couple of things:

I’ve known Ryan since Mar 20** when he came to a networking event I was running in Ealing.

Ryan is very hard-working. Very hard working.

I believe in some way he means well and will do what he can to support you.

I’ve known him for around 18 months. In that period he’s met my whole family pretty much (stayed at my folks place, stayed at my place) – folks, cousins, girlfriend, and all.

I’ve met his family briefly twice as well.

Ryan bought my course ****.

He ended up moving from Reading to ***, quit his job for us to build a business together – **** and met his girlfriend when I encouraged him to go up and talk to a lovely south-east Asian lady who had walked into the Brewers Arms on around the summer of 2009.

So it’s fair to say I know him pretty well, and I guess (I guess?) – helped him change his life.

I’ve even gone on to build out his Ryan Harwerden site as well as assist with his YouTube channel growth and Soundcloud podcast

____________

So hopefully I’ve done a robust enough job of demonstrating my relationship with 24-year-old Ryan.

If you meet him, aside from sometimes being a little socially odd – he’s a seemingly good person with good intentions.

The odd part probably comes from his background and upbringing. Many of the things he spoke of just didn’t bear reflection upon actual reality

Why Ryan and our business broke down

Ryan and I got to know each other as a consequence of the course I’d launched a couple of years back.

At the time I had the potential to scale my SEO agency or the other business

The challenge I had was – that for the SEO agency there were much more readily available options in terms of building an outsourced team.

On the other side, the challenge was – it WAS working – but I didn’t have an operational unit for it – and finding a team on this side was proving to be much more of a challenge.

I chose then to focus on growing the SEO agency and Ryan and I would ultimately go into business to launch ***.

The way I’d grown *** in its nascent stages to success was via LinkedIn Lead Generation outreach on my client accounts, in combination with either direct cold email or email follow-up to LinkedIn connections to land clients

It was a pretty simple model I bootstrapped together with Linked Helper and Mailshake and wrote good copy.

This was the bones of it.

Ryan and our business would fail for several reasons:

The biggest one I’d like to point out as being my fault:

I ultimately trusted too much in a 24-year-old first-time business owner to be able to figure things out himself.

I trusted in him having taken my course, working his socks off, and being clearly dedicated and determined.

But this was not the right approach to take as I’d go on to discover:

We would advertise 3 areas as part of our offering:

  • Service 1
  • Service 2
  • Service 3

9 months into running this business and working on it at least for 50 hours a week here’s where we got to:

Service 1

We hired an outsourced team which Ryan never ran due diligence upon to check the quality of their actual work.

Much of the work upon deeper inspection was unfortunately not good at all.

Here’s one of our clients – and what they said about us:

Email View

It totally sucks for me to get emails like this.

I’m simply not used to it. Working as an agency owner I absolutely hate receiving emails like these…

I’m not sure I ever have received one, to be honest.

Service 2

This ultimately never materialized into anything. We launched one singular campaign for our client, Jamie, at his ‘Sort It Out’ event that went well actually.

She’s now listed on Ryan’s site.

He removed this video from our website and it’s a shame –

We should have done more of this type of work.

Service 2

This is where the focus of the business went and horribly so.

We fundamentally made a business out of setting up fake LinkedIn accounts and using them to generate leads for our clients.

An unethical business practice.

And we got mired in this.

Ryan made it his quest to figure out how to trick LinkedIn and generate completely fake profiles at scale.

And this is where all the efforts of the company went into.

Account bans eventually followed, then Ryan got banned and then I got banned. And then our company got totally banned (LinkedIn recommended I take legal action again Ryan – I’ll share this in the next email)

RETENTION

The acid test was retention.

Could we keep a client for 3 months in a row over a 9-month period when we did generate 10+ leads per month?

We did not.

And so coupled with all of the above – I decided to pull the plug on the company.

Things had been tense since around June 20** when I’d reviewed some of our cold caller calls and realized how bad they were.

They were so obviously bad – and what shocked me about all of this was that Ryan didn’t realize.

This led to significant tension between us that went back and forth over the following months.

To Ryan’s credit, he worked hard to try and improve things – but the fake accounts at scale continued alongside client unhappiness and my general confusion as to how the business was being run.

There was confusing communication between Ryan’s team (including Richard, Angelo, Ernie, and Amanda – all of whom I’d recruited) at the best of times.

And so ultimately our handshake agreement of 50/50 equity went to 65/35 (whilst legally I was the 100% shareholder) and then I decided it was time to call it quits totally.

The idea was always that once we proved the business ‘worked’ Ryan would become a shareholder – and to make him feel ‘protected’ in this period there were several protocols in play:

  1. I never took a salary from the company (whilst Ryan was on £1.9k)
  2. We built out Ryan’s personal website and ran SEO
  3. I got Ryan involved in Forex Trading (which made £300-500 per month) in the last 2-months of the business
  4. I encouraged him to be on video, release his own YouTube channel and build out his own brand

So in all of these ways he’d be protected.

But ultimately it all would come to nothing, and I’d discover the depths of Ryan’s dishonesty soon after…

How Ryan Harwerden Conned Our Clients

The deceit when further…

Upon Ryan’s departure, I discovered he deleted his entire email inbox

And then shortly after I began to receive messages like this from our former clients when we went into business together:

Email View

To have messages sent to me from Ryan’s old housemates like this:

Whatsapp Message View

As well as other clients that Ryan had under management like this:

Whatsapp Message View

And to discover that Ryan upon the breakdown of our business relationship (because of things like this):

Response

Ryan then refused me access to his work email inbox account…and when he did I discovered the entire inbox of 9 months’ work was empty.

He had deleted the entire inbox:

Settings

And thought this was normal behavior:

[convertful id=”197358″]

Whatsapp Message View

He’d also switch software logins for tools bought under my personal Appsumo account:

Email

The contact address book for ********* was deleted:

Contacts

Staff wasn’t paid finally:

Whatsapp Message View

Neither was HRMC:

Accountant

How Ryan Cost ********* £100,000

Let me break down how I’ve calculated that number so it’s clear to you:

SEO PERSONAL SITE: £10,000

Pearl Lemon (my main agency) – was running his SEO for 4-months at a value of £2,500 per month for his personal site

Organic Research

SEO CORPORATE SITE: £35,000

For the corporate site, we ran it from March – December so 10 months at a value of £3,500 per month

Organic Research

CLIENT REFUNDS: £10,000+

As you can see from the messages above (£6.5k) and the other (£1k), as well as a host of others – Gavin – Gaveen Media (£2k)

Here’s Gavin chasing a refund from us also back in November 2019:

Whatsapp Message View

For clarity (in case you think maybe I’m equally terrible) – as an agency owner I’m used to receiving messages like this:

Intro

STRIPE BILLING £6k:

Billing

This is an interesting one – as Ryan had told me he had settled all bills

REPUTATION £25,000

When you missell yourself at this scale, it leads to a huge amount of reputational damage for someone like myself who has attempted to build the Pearl Lemon Group on the basis of ethical behavior.

You could potentially debate this number for sure – but I think it’s pretty conservative as with each client that’s poorly served – referrals die, bad reputation spreads and A LOT of damage is done.

SORTING OUT THIS MESS £20,000

I am now left with all of the above to deal with.

HMRC, Taxes, past clients, and all.

It’s a complete mess and I kick myself for ever partnering with someone who’d go on to cause me so much damage.

Other Challenges – Ryan Harwerden Website

As part of writing this series of blogs – frustratingly I have kept being drawn back to Ryan’s website as I discover more issues as my team asks about why they are on this site.

I’ve noticed several other distortions of the truth on Ryan’s site whilst there which if none of the above sticks – will demonstrate exactly what I mean about his duplicity

Putting Pearl Lemon Staff On His Website without permission:

Whatsapp Message View

Whatsapp Message View

Whatsapp Message View

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So this is where it finished up before we got to talking and Ryan decided to assist with the liquidation and so it reduced the bill owed from £10k to a couple thousand.

When producing this document and sharing it with Ryan it became a pretty quick decision for him to make.

I thought this would be powerful to share with you because not all ventures turn out positively and as you hoped.

I’ve put this down to me being lazy (allowing Ryan to run things alone) and being a poor manager of people. I’ve since forgiven him of this whole thing and put it behind me – but wanted to put it in FRONT of you ha.

Be wary of the partners you find and friends you keep 🙂

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