Case of Kickstarter campaign gone wrong plays out in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's the first case of its kind. And it's playing out in Portland.

The Federal Trade Commission has worked out a judgment and settlement with a man accused of using Kickstarter to raise money for a board game, but never producing the game.

The FTC said Erik Chevalier, with a business address in Southeast Portland, received more than $120,000 from backers for the game "The Doom That Came To Atlantic City," but did not bring the game to production nor give refunds as promised.

"The people who back a Kickstarter deserve to be taken care of. They deserve to get the goods they have been promised," said Lee Moyer, the original inventor of the game, who said he was also deceived by Chevalier.

Moyer, who lives in Northeast Portland, said he came up with the idea for the game more than two decades ago.

"I've been playing this game in different formations with handmade boards with my friends for 25 years," said Moyer.

Moyer said he did the art and design for the game, and worked with game designer Keith Baker and artist Paul Komoda to develop the rules and create sculpted figurines.

He said they did not have time to do a Kickstarter campaign for the game, so they allowed Chevalier to run the Kickstarter campaign and raise money for production.

"What's not to love? Well, apparently what's not to love is what transpired," said Moyer.

The campaign raised more than $120,000. But Moyer said Chevalier announced many problems with the production, and then gave a final declaration.

"We got this bizarre note saying, in essence, 'Oh, I seem to have spent $120,000 and I don't have any money to make the game, sorry,'" said Moyer.

The Problem Solvers went to Chevalier's former business address in Southeast Portland. No one answered the door.

The FTC said in a press release that Chevalier spent most of the money on "unrelated personal expenses such as rent, moving himself to Oregon, personal equipment, and licenses for a different project."

For Moyer, it was hard to see the money raised for their creation disappear in this way.

"That's a horrible, horrible thing," said Moyer.

But the game did not die. Another company, Cryptozoic Entertainment, volunteered to produce the game for free for the people who paid on Kickstarter.

Scott Gaeta, former chief operating officer at Cryptozoic, said the company gave away about 1,200 games. Others have since sold.

"We produced a total of 5,000 and have under 1,000 left," wrote Gaeta in an e-mail.

Moyer said the FTC settlement will help make the Kickstarter environment more stable.

"I'm delighted to see the settlement," said Moyer. "Hopefully, this will send a message to anyone who thinks that Kickstarter is just an open field where they can defraud anyone they like," he said.

The FTC said Chevalier's $111,793.91 judgment will be suspended due to Chevalier's inability to pay.

"The full amount will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition," the FTC said.

Kickstarter's online terms of use say the company does not oversee projects' performance and does not mediate disputes between users.

"The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they're unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers," the site reads.

The site adds a disclaimer:

"Kickstarter isn't liable for any damages or losses related to your use of the Services. We don't become involved in disputes between users, or between users and any third party relating to the use of the Services. We don't oversee the performance or punctuality of projects, and we don't endorse any content users submit to the Site. When you use the Services, you release Kickstarter from claims, damages, and demands of every kind - known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, disclosed or undisclosed - arising out of or in any way related to such disputes and the Services. All content you access through the Services is at your own risk. You're solely responsible for any resulting damage or loss to any party."

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