Sunday, October 18, 2009

The debacle of Game UniCon 2009 - lies, deceit, and video games

Apparently, I've been living under a rock... back in August I was the official spokes model for a brand new gaming convention set the be held in Marlboro, MA.  Game UniCon. I was asked to be the model after the owner of the convention, John Keough, found me through Sisters of the Moon, who had paid to have her booth set up with her designs at the convention. I spent three days at a hotel having a grand ol' time at this thing, and come to find out it was all a sham.  A con.  A rip-off.  I was carpooling to the FNS group shoot yesterday with photographer, Greg Easton when I asked him, 

"So what's up with John? Why haven't we heard from him?"
He stares at me,
"Where have you been? He's in prison."

Oh, well fuck.... Upon arriving home, my boyfriend and I dig some internet research and found the answers we were looking for.  Below is an excerpt from the Smash World Forums where owner of Game Universe, Jamie discusses the matter. Game Universe was the store that fronted most of the funds for the convention and is now in over their heads:
The story behind GameuniCON 09...

GameUnicon was a convention in Marlborough MA based around competitve Video Game Tournaments, video game themed bands, and other gamer related things. Though the smash turnout for the convention wasn't bad overall the convention failed miserably. Primarily due to poor financing, poor advertising, and the owner, John Keough.

John Keough is a compulsive liar. Prior to the event he told us we had over 300 players signed up for Brawl Singles, 100 TV's ready for use strictly for brawl, hotel being paid off, and god konws how many other lies. Naturally with all of these being false, things were bound to go sour. On Sunday of the convention i receive a phone call and am asked to come to the meeting room, i am then briefed on the situation and told that they do not have the money to pay the winners of the rest of the tournaments (brawl, melee, SFIV, and 2 others i believe..) But he also assures me that he will be able to get the money from his company "Keough Enterprises" within 3 weeks.
For those of you that don't know... John said to us he had a deal in place for 500 TVs for this event and the THURSDAY of the show that was to start on Friday told us that ... "OMG the deal fell through".... as well as other "Deals" he had made for Portapotties at the concert, THE FN DIVE IN MOVIE, brochures, fliers, arcade machines filling the hallways, and much, much more. I'm really sorry these things didn't happen and I can assure you that I was told that he had arranged all of these things WEEKS ahead of time.

Now here we are a few weeks later, and players such as ADHD start informing me that their checks have bounced. ADHD was supposed to receive $1400, Swiftbass also had a check bounce, Lain was supposed to get paid $353 but his check (written for $300) cleared which is still absurd. I have also confirmed that Justin Wong has not been paid, along with many other members of Empire Arcadia.. It just seems to be our luck when working with other people to either get robbed, or shafted.. conned.. or something of that manner..
The Thursday of the event, John told us that the hotel was paid for IN FULL and that we didn't owe them any more money and that we were in the perfect financial position for this even to go smoothly.

Friday September 19th, 2009 John Keough was arrested:

"A home invasion in Rehoboth, MA, on Friday afternoon ends in an hours-long standoff with police in Pawtucket, RI. 

John Keough of Malden, MA, is accused of breaking into a home in Rehoboth, tying up the woman inside, and taking off with her car. Authorities chased Keough through Rehoboth and Seekonk, MA, and East Providence and Pawtucket, RI, until Keough ditched the car and jumped into a river in Slater Park in Pawtucket. 

He then held police at bay, threatening to shoot himself with the gun used in the home invasion. Police negotiators were able to convince Keough to give himself up, and he was taken into custody. "

Source / video:
Seriously WTF.... So on Tuesday John calls me (I hadn't spoken to him for more than 3 seconds on the phone since the event he was just dodging my calls and assuring me that we would be able to pay the winners on time because his company Keough Enterprises would be receiving more money soon from Energy drink sales) John says "Hey Jamie GREAT NEWS! My family and friends have agreed to loan me some money so that I can ALL of the bills paid for GameUniCon! I don't feel comfortable coming by your store but I will come drop off your $500 that your band Jesus Candy is owed Thursday or Friday" I was like AWESOME news John (I didn't really believe it but I hoped it would be true) I guess his family turned out to be that poor lady that he robbed. I feel terrible for her and all of the people he could have hurt in his insane rampage.

From what i understand John Keough owes:
Hotel payment: 49,000
Prize Money: 10,000+
Game Universe: 20,000
Band Fee's: ????
None of the staff was paid (including us)
He owes the hotel 29,000
Prize money seems close to accurate... he mentioned 7,600 to me at one point I have no idea.

Game Universe IS owed around $20,000. Our agreement with him when running this convention is that he would be financially responsible for the event and we would use our connections and name to get all the gamers to come. We told John we could not afford to run a convention and that GU was in bad shape because of the economy and we could not afford to run one. He said he would take $10,000 of his own money and $10,000 of his company's money and run this event. HE NEVER HAD THIS MONEY. He lied to us.

This isn't even the money he owes Game Universe.

The Thursday of the event, John had us buy $20,000 in product, Truck Rentals, TVs and more with the promise that we would get the money back as soon as the convention was over. Keep in mind he told us that the hotel was PAID IN FULL and we were ALREADY MAKING MONEY so we took literally the last bit of money our company has and put this into the convention. We will now never see that money. This has put us into a downward spiral that our company may not make it through. Game Universe got started with my friend and the owner of GU Dave and his Ebay business. This year because of the economy, we had already been hurting extremely bad. Unfortunately I don't want to get into the details because it's not my place to say but let's just say Dave lost EVERYTHING he EARNED and Game Universe was on life support. GameUniCon was presented to us from John as a way to save our business and our store and instead it cost us the only last bit of money we had. We are now $20,000 worse off than when we started and we were 20 days late with paying the rent of the store this month. If it weren't for John lying and saying everything was ok we would not have been put in the position to spend that money. There is SO MUCH *****ing I could do here but I will move on.... to the rest of the post.

Again i really apologize for all who are involved, what i need is for people to help out with looking up the legalities, but i was thinking about putting a Lien on his house, car, or business if at all possible.. Which would mean that I may be able to take a copy of all the bounced checks, go to the police, and put that on his property, preventing the house from being sold or anything without paying the Lien prior. That could mean that i wont be able to get people their money for a few years.. but i am not entirely sure.
I hope we can do this and I will do what I can to help.

The other potential event is that, the lan center who was hurt more than anyone in this incident "Game Universe" is talking about selling their store. They're more or less going out of business due to John's lies, and they're saying if they can get enough money for their store they will happily pay off the winners, because they feel outright awful about all of this.
At this point we have 2 choices sell Game Universe the store, or close. Done. Dave has been ruined by John's lies and corruption and can not afford to keep the store open. I am hoping if we do sell to stay on as the Manager and continue to fight to keep the dream of Game Universe alive. Dave is pretty much absolutely screwed either way. GU Corporate was in a bad way this was the finishing blow to it. I believe he will fight to the very end to keep going but I think he's pretty much out of options and in horrible insane debt. He is looking to sell the store to keep it open and keep myself, Dan, Tony, Glen and others employed somewhere. Dave is an amazing awesome friend and it kills me to see everything we worked for together falling apart.

They had 0 ownership rights, they were in a very similar boat to me, being considered a host / sponsor.
Although this is what John Keough has been telling everyone, it is not true. His agreement was that this convention was 50% his and 50% Dave's however, he was 100% in control of all the money, contracts and payouts. However he told everyone including the hotel and vendors that the convention was 100% his and put everything under his company's name Keough Enterprises or Keough Gaming and never included us in anything. He was effectively trying to steal our concept, name and customer base and it is assumed at this point intended on bankrupting us and stealing the GameUniCon concept. He even offered us $100,000 to buy our half of the convention. He didn't have that money and we knew it so we didn't fall for his crap. He is a con artist and took as much advantage of us as he could. 
I will keep this updated on the status of John, and i will also use this as a list of players who had their checks bounce, and the $ amount that was bounced. So please spread the word to the players about this, and again i am terribly sorry about this. As a TO i will never again run an event with someone above me, where i have no control over the funds. Once $1000 was robbed from my tournament, and now this.. I've really had enough, and am capable of doing this on my own. I really hope i haven't lost respect from anyone due to this, and i will be doing whatever i can to get this resolved!
Jake and the Mages have been amazing. NONE of this is their fault. Please continue to respect and attend the ECRC and their events because they are entirely innocent in this case. I asked them to help run this event and they were nothing but phenomenal with everything they did.

Here's the main problem here....

1. Game Universe has no money and is on it's deathbed.
2. Dave has no money.
3. I have negative money in my personal account and I swear to you if I could get any bank to give me a loan I would do it in a second. I just can't there's no way. My family is all poor and have no money. This convention was supposed to fund my wedding and get me out of debt, instead I didn't get paid anything AND my guitar player was told he would get money from this event so he is out hundreds of dollars he put up recording our song for Rock Band.

I swear to you if Game Universe had ANY funds we would have paid all the players by now and left it up to us to get our money from John. If we can sell the store we will do our best to get your winnings asap.

John told my employees he would pay them all of working, none of them got paid a cent. The LAN Center guy bought $700 in equipment. John said he would pay him back. Nothing.

In closing, I love video games, I love the community, I have made so many friends from running this store and Mass Madness and I am so lucky to be able to do something I love for a living. I am so sorry this happened to everyone and if I knew John was a friggin Con Artist I swear to you we would have never in a million years thought of running this convention with him.

I hope we can keep our store open.

I will do everything I can to help the winners get paid. I can't thank you enough for coming to our event and you deserve your money.

I'm so sorry that Jake and the Mages got mixed up in this crap. 

I love all of you and I'm sorry.

Jamie-GU Store Manager"

As you can see, this entire ordeal was a complete clusterfuck, and I am embarrassed to have my face and name associated with this sham.  I am also deeply enraged by the fact so many people lost their money to this scumbag. Some of these people were my friends. A serious lesson has been learned here.  Next time someone asks me to be their spokes model, I'm doing a background check.

The forums 

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  1. holly crap...
    I can kiss my refund good bye

  2. sadly... yes.... I am so so so sorry lady.... :(