Living a prosperous life often depends upon being able to make good, informed life decisions. Because of how much we as humans interact with other humans, developing the skills required to make those interactions productive is critical.
With that context in mind, I’m going to share with you an experience I had over the past year that showed me some improvements I needed to make with regard to investing money, trusting business partners, and evaluating people’s character.
This is my own personal experience (there are many others, hundreds of others) of being conned by a professional swindler: Brett Bartlett, founder of Dynasty Toys and Concept Management Company (CMC).
tldr; After raising tens of millions of dollars from hundreds of investors who were referred to him through Jim Cockrum’s MySilentTeam online sellers network (including me) it ultimately turned out Brett Bartlett was operating a ponzi scheme. He is now being investigated by the FBI, and will likely end up in jail for a long time.
This article discusses the following topics:
- Jim Cockrum’s MySilentTeam Group and Proven Conference Business
- Brett Bartlett, founder of Dynasty Toys and Concept Management Company (CMC)
- Brett Bartlett’s insider team: Scott Miller, Leah Miller, Glyn Kennedy, Blake Newton, Kolten Freck
- The Dynasty Toys Amazon seller cooperative
- The Family Face Mask company, a business set up by Brett Bartlett to sell cotton face masks
- Advice on how to protect yourself against investment fraud schemes such as the one operated by Brett Bartlett, Scott Miller, and their team
In the fall of 2019, I attended a business conference sponsored by Jim Cockrum entitled The Proven Conference, held in Champaign, Illinois. Over the past decade, Cockrum has built a large network of online entrepreneurs, branded by him as MySilentTeam, who learn from each other, and who are often encouraged to work together.
I was referred to Jim Cockrum’s group and invited to attend the Proven Conference by one of my Amazon seller friends, who had attended the conference the previous year, and who felt like he had learned a lot at the conference and benefitted from the relationships he made there. He also mentioned that there were some investment opportunities that were available at the conference that tended to be good fits for online sellers.
Based on what I saw as a solid recommendation, I decided to go to the conference and see what it was all about.
The group of people attending the 2019 Proven Conference seemed like genuine small business owners who were all in one stage or another of building their own success stories. There was a general abundance mentality among the group of small business entrepreneurs Jim had put together there, and that mentality appeared to flow from the very religious undertone that was immediately obvious from Jim and others leading the group.
It felt like this crowd fit my personality well. These seemed like trustworthy people who were eager to see success for themselves and help others enjoy similar opportunities.
One of the most common workshops held at the Proven Conference was one entitled Working With Dynasty Toys. My friend suggested that I check it out. He had invested in their offering the previous year, and he told me he thought it had been a success for him. It was at this workshop that I was introduced to Brett Bartlett, the founder of Dynasty Toys, along with his team of young entrepreneurs: Leah Miller, Glyn Kennedy, Kolten Freck, and others. From everything I learned in the workshop and at the conference generally, Brett and Jim had formed a co-op of investors who could invest money into Dynasty Toys inventory (mostly laser tag games), and receive a significant return on their investment while also learning the ins and outs of Amazon sales, including how to drive more traffic to your Amazon listings for your own brand.
Brett Bartlett's Rags to Riches Story
The Phone Call from Brett: An Investment Proposal
Several days after the conference, I got a phone call from Brett. He explained more about how his co-op used people’s money to buy inventory that would be sold off, mostly during the fourth quarter Christmas rush, and that the investment would be paid back along with what amounted to an 80% annual return.
Being familiar with other investments, I asked him why he was paying such a high return to people who contributed as opposed to getting funding at a much lower rate from a bank or other private investor. His answer to my question made enough sense. The 80% annual return was not really a passive investment. Dynasty Toys expected their investors to form a community with them, interacting with them and their product in a way that was mutually beneficial.
All told, I decided to invest $200k into Brett’s inventory co-op through a promissory note he executed, and I committed to meeting with Brett weekly to review sales of his company’s products, which were to be done through my Amazon account.
Cotton Face Masks and a Pandemic
During the first week of February I received a phone call from Brett asking whether the fulfillment team I was using for my vinyl decor business could cut out fabric and make face masks out of it. Based on the search trends visible from Amazon’s brand analytics tool, he seemed confident that there would be a demand for cotton face masks over the coming few months. Of course, neither of us had any idea how what we only knew as the virus that came from someone in China eating a bat would quickly create an ominous cloud over the entire world, eventually causing governments to mandate that people wear masks and other face coverings.
I told Brett I’d check on it. Later, my wife and I came up with the materials and design to make a simple cotton mask. Over the next couple of months, the production teams I set up in Utah, Idaho, and Tennessee would end up making millions of masks for Brett to sell through Amazon and on his FamilyFaceMask.com website.
A Bad Partnership: Who Controls the Money
A major mistake I made in the relationship was allowing Brett to have sole ownership over sales and collecting revenue. He used his own Amazon account and had possession of the domain, which meant that he collected the money, while I was in charge of expenses, ultimately what amounted to $150,000 worth of them before I was able to have him start covering expenses out of the sales revenues he received.
Return of My Dynasty Toys Inventory Investment
While this project was operating, in February 2020, my $200,000 investment was due to be returned, plus the $80k interest on it. As the date came and went, I put more pressure on Brett to pay back what he contractually owed me, especially considering that by that time (the first of March, 2020), I had spent $350,000 without seeing a dime back from a person who considered himself my business partner. In the process of collecting my initial investment from Brett Bartlett, he lied to me several times about why there was a delay, including mentioning that he’d send a wire transfer, but that it wouldn’t arrive to my account until several days later.
In response to that claim about wire transfer delays, I told Brett that I fully understood how wire transfers work, and that he was intentionally delaying a payment commitment he had made to me. After following up with him several times, I finally asked him, “Brett, are you running a ponzi scheme?” He vehemently denied that accusation. However, much later I learned just how true my intuition was.
Parting Ways With Brett Bartlett
Over the next few months of doing business with Brett, I caught him telling me several flat out lies. He always had an excuse for reneging on promises, “changing his mind”, and doing other things that amounted to dishonesty and lack of character. A couple months later, during the first week of May, 2020, I decided to part ways with Brett after he yet again had found a reason not to pay me what he owed me. We had an intense discussion wherein I asked him to simply calculate the profit from what we had done up until that point and give me my split of that amount, which I estimated to be in the range of about $1M.
Instead, Brett told me he would sign a contract with me that would have him pay back my investment, plus pay out my split of the profit, which he estimated to be about $1.6M, from the joint venture. His payments were to be made in chunks of $30k over the period of time from May 7 until the first part of August. Unsurprisingly, he made the first few payments, then disappeared and cut off all contact, leaving me at least $50k short of the amount I had invested with him and his project.
Trying to Get Help From Jim Cockrum
While we were working on the cotton face mask project, Jim Cockrum repeatedly used it as a way to promote his group and his business tactics. He held up the project as an example of the benefits that could be had by members of his community if they worked together with him, Brett, or other members of the community to partner on project.
After Brett disappeared and cut off communication (no responses to text messages, calls, and emails), I went to Jim to get some help. He referred me to Scott Miller, Brett’s father-in-law (who is Brett’s partner and co-owner of their Concept Management Company or CMC enterprise) telling me, “These are high integrity people who love this community.” After one conversation with Scott Miller requesting that Brett keep his commitments, he also disappeared and quit communicating.
My next contact was with a bankruptcy attorney who was representing Brett, Scott, and their Dynasty Toys and CMC companies.
In all of my communication with Jim, it was clear that his top priority (once he realized that the investor co-op he’d help facilitate was imploding) was to distance himself from Brett Bartlett, his seemingly close partner that he had been endorsing for years. In all my conversations with Jim, he repeatedly pointed out that he wanted to help, but he had to make sure that he would not be held accountable for connecting people from his community with a person who turned out to lack integrity.
Dozens of Other Investors
After reaching out to Jim Cockrum, I soon found out that there were dozens of other investors who had put in anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $1M to a very silver-tongued Brett Bartlett. From the information I gathered, Brett owes tens of millions of dollars to a large collection (dozens that I know of) of unhappy people.
Bankruptcy and FBI Investigation of Brett Bartlett, Scott Miller, and CMC
At the end of October, I was contacted by the FBI regarding some criminal complaints they had received and were following up on. I met with them for an hour and provided the details of my experience with Brett.
I’d expect that soon enough, Brett Bartlett, Scott Miller, and possibly others from their team who were complicit with the multi-million dollar ponzi schemes they were running, will be arrested, and they are looking at spending lots of time in jail.
What I Learned
This entire experience has given me the opportunity to think about what made me susceptible to a fraud scheme such as the one that has been operated by Brett Bartlett and his minions. First, when people start using their commitment to family, religion and Christianity alone as reasons to trust the business opportunities they offer while dodging other attempts to vet their integrity, that is a clear sign of impending fraud. Second, it is critical to give due process to considering investments based upon how much you’re investing. If it’s $10 loaned to a friend, that’s not a big deal, but when the amount gets into the thousands, tens of thousands, or (as in my case) hundreds of thousands or more, much more detailed vetting must be done in order to sign off on an investment.
Look For the Signals
When considering a partnership or investment opportunity, I’ve learned that it’s critical to vet the person through experience before committing to anything larger. There were several instances that I observed deliberate dishonesty from Brett and his team members after I invested in the “Work With Dynasty” Amazon inventory offer.
Here are just a couple of the ones I observed.
Giveaway Contests Without Giveaways
As I participated in the giveaways, I quickly found out that Brett had no intention of actually giving anything away. On several occasions, he advertised one of my products as a giveaway. When the giveaway was finished, I would ask him who won the contest so that I could have my fulfillment team ship them their prize. On three different occasions, he essentially told me that since there is only expected to be one winner among a bunch of people who entered, it didn’t matter whether you actually send out a prize. For the giveaways that involved my products, I had to determine who the winner was and then ship out the product to them after learning that Brett had no intention of fulfilling the commitment of the giveaway.
For Brett and Dynasty Giveaways, the giveaway was most often used simply to get access to people’s information so that they could market other products to them. In my book, that’s fraud.
Hijacking Amazon Product Listings
After I began manufacturing masks and doing fulfillment for Brett’s Family Facemask business, I found out that the listing he was using to sell masks was not his own, and that he had hijacked not only one listing, but several different listings that were not his own. When I asked him about it, he told me that Amazon allows sellers to list their products on “generic” listings like the ones he was using to sell masks, and that everything he was doing with his Amazon seller account was approved by Amazon. I had to insist that he create his own listings advertising exactly what we were making before he finally admitted that what he was doing was dishonest and set up his own listings.
As a Christian trying my best to live my religion, I overlooked these shortcomings, hoping that I could influence Brett and his team to have more integrity in their business dealings. I even felt like I could mentor Brett on how to do business ethically. Ultimately, it wasn’t until later that I found out how much the lack of integrity among Brett Bartlett, Scott Miller, and their team had already put them into a deep hole of deception.