Criminal organizations always rely on intimidation and extortion to silence victims who might expose their criminal activities and Epik is no exception. As witnessed in Rob Monster’s failed attempt at intimidating the Namepros forum into censoring “anti-Epik bias” (i.e. reporting on the truth) during his coverup of the data breach, Epik relies on obfuscating blame and extorting its victims out of telling the truth to maintain its failing brand image to fool an investor into buying it.
Another example of Monster’s intimidation tactics was his hiring of professional troll Joey Camp to intimidate Molly White, a wikipedia editor who was responsible for updating Epik’s wiki entry, into removing her “anti-Epik bias”.
As previously reported by the Providence Post, in the latter half of 2022 and shortly after Monster stepped down as CEO, customers using Epik’s escrow service Masterbucks began complaining of not being able to withdraw their money, which began a months long damage control campaign in which Epik’s new CEO Brian Royce had to conjure up lie after lie in order to hide the fact that the escrow money had been spent on operating expenses and personal renovations to Rob Monster’s house.
Royce continued Monster’s go-to tactic of intimidation by updating Masterbucks’ terms of service (without an opt-out option and while customers’ funds were still missing) to include a thinly veiled threat disguised as a clause about “defamatory” and “trade libelous” actions, a transparent attempt to intimidate victims who are already in financial trouble with the threat of an expensive legal battle…
…in addition to a $2,500 violation fee for whatever Epik deems to be defamatory that’s deducted out from victims’ still-withheld funds…
…despicable behavior which makes Royce truly worthy to be Rob Monster’s successor.
On third-party review site Trustpilot, Epik had to resort to obfuscating blame in order to save face. The company has replied to many of the plethora of 1-star reviews and customer complaints by redirecting the blame to Masterbucks; telling them to delete the review and make the complaint under Masterbucks’ Trustpilot page instead. As dishonest and irresponsible as this tactic is it is an improvement from their previous tactic of reminding people who, were leaving honest and professional, albeit negative, reviews, that legal action may be taken for “defamatory” comments.
In some instances, Epik threatened its more vocal victims with withholding funds if they didn’t take down their negative reviews. In the case of the review below, Monster accused the customer of harassment and held his $25,000 hostage until he removed his review…
…behavior that can be expected from a mob boss and not from but not from an entrepreneur whose entire claim to fame is free speech and christian leadership.
Epik victim Kathleen Kalaf eventually posted a video which drew the attention of the DomainNameWire podcast and Criticalhit.net, who both brought wider attention to Epik’s mistreatment of its customers.
Criticalhit.net went even harder, publishing three hard hitting articles detailing Epik’s downfall:
… its victims getting interviewed by the FBI for an investigation…
and Royce’s pathetic offer to settle to give Kalaf half of the $100,000 owed to her.
Unfortunately, not too long after these articles were soon taken down, replaced by a 404 message.
When asked by the Providence Post, the owner of Criticalhit.net admitted to taking down the articles after getting threatened by Epik’s Chief Operation Officer Lars Skaarup with not his money still trapped in Masterbucks.
To counter Epik’s attempt at censoring the truth, we are reposting the contents of the three now-deleted articles and links to their archive pages, as no amount of extorting and obfuscating Monster or Royce can do to hide the fact that Epik is a failure and consequences for their misdeeds are fast approaching.
Brian Royce – Epik CEO “Destroys” Epik in Less Than 3 Months…
By Earl Vincent
Posted on 3 weeks ago
5 min read
Brian Royce, the newly installed CEO of Epik, only took the helm of Epik in September 2022, but since then, Epik has quickly cascaded into chaos, failing to pay out Escrow funds that the company were entrusted with. Brian Royce was also reportedly personally threatening Epik clients with legal action, in which the company will offset its costs and damages against client’s account balance if they find anyone reporting or disclosing what they believe to be information that defames the already troubled company.
Namepros users first reported not being able to withdraw their funds from the Epik Escrow service on 20th September 2022. Since that first post, there have been over 3,300 replies in the thread with some startling revelations – in some cases each more troubling than the last.
Brian Royce tried to dispel and quell the trouble that was brewing at Epik with what many Namepros users described as an ill judged podcast on DomainNameWire. Namepros user bmugford was quoted as saying “You don’t destroy the credibility of your company even more to “upgrade” a payment system”.
In this podcast, the CEO was at best economical with the truth about Epik users being informed of the planned upgrade on the Epik platform that prevented payouts. He also made the startling confession that Escrow proceeds may not be in their own bank account, which can only be assumed that the funds from Epik Escrow transactions were co-mingled with regular company spending at Epik and were not available to be paid out.
In recent days, DomainEmpire have made their debt with Epik public – an eye watering $1.5 million. The full text of their Trustpilot review is below…
Here’s Luigi from DomainEmpire (no need to hide my identity) and this’s a 100% genuine and verifiable review unfortunately.
I admit we worked quite well with Rob Monster (Masterbucks/Epik CEO till last Sep 2022) for the latest years. We had 4 diff. accounts at Masterbucks where we were collecting funds generated from multiple domain sales closed through the Epik.com escrow service.
All funds were deposited to our Masterbucks balances.
No problem with withdrawals until few months ago but Rob offered us a 6% yearly interest over our deposits (paid in the measure of 0.50% at the beginning of each month) so we’ve a total balance of roughly $1.5M (yes, you’re reading correctly and we’ve screenshots to proof this).
Most of our funds have been converted in Bitcoins some months back but at the end of Ocober they’ve fraudolently (and with no previous notice) reconverted anything to USD and moved the balance of 3 of these accounts to the correspoding Epik accounts.
Masterbucks.com has been ‘under maintenance’ for few weeks so they gained time to move elsewhere all their customer funds (I guess anything may have been converted to crypto but we’ll soon start a legal investigation to make light over the real facts).
Once back online, we see no real improvement made exception for a 2.5% withdrawal fee + an additional fee applied to any requested wire.
Note this was just a strategy to discourage most of their customers to withdraw funds but it didn’t work considering anyone tried to recover their own cash so they’ve just surprised us all by just ignoring such refund requests 🙂
It’s all important to note withdrawals were previously free (considering they were already earning through their escrow service fee) so they added it with no previous announcement.
Before this event, we tried to withdraw $50k with no luck considering the request was cancelled few days later and all funds moved to Epik.
After that we got an email inviting us to reinvest our funds in Epik services/domain purchases with no option to withdraw them.
We’ve emailed Rob multiple times trying to reach an amicable compromise before making the whole story public, this’s honestly the first time we post a negative review about someone and it’s something we don’t really like to do …
Lots of promises but nothing happened.
Brian Royce (the new CEO) agreed to schedule a call with our paralegal for last Friday 11/18 after that his assistant called to reschedule to Monday 11/21 but nobody called and he disappeared by ignoring the further reminder we send him by email.
Rob Monster (previous CEO) is now chairman at Epik and here’s something fun.
If you email him now, you getting an autoresponse inviting to contact Brian for any Epik related issue but … now you know the whole story 🙂
We’ve enough resources and motivations to sue this company and to make the whole story public being in the position to proof that Rob Monster deceived and frauded us despite the fact we trusted his company more than our own bank !
We’ve warned all our customers/partners and contacts to stay away from Masterbucks/Epik now becomed high risk companies near to bankruptcy.
In view of all recent facts, Epik will soon loose the Icann accreditation and all domains will be assigned to another registrar.
We’re ready to edit our review if someone from Epik will call our paralegal to clarify this matter and to refund our balance under all 4 accounts with no real intention to damage their reputation if an agreement should be reached.
While this debt to DomainEmpire is troubling enough, Kathleen Kalaf put a name to a face with an emotional video in which the 60 year old described having trouble sleeping, after the funds from her Epik Escrow transaction were not paid to her – the funds of which were ear marked for her impending retirement.
Not only this, Brian Royce has also been threatening Epik clients with legal action, in which the company will offset its costs and damages against client’s account balance if they find anyone reporting or disclosing what they believe to be information that defames the company, reported DomainNameWire on their podcast on 5th December. A pretty startling confession for the CEO of an Escrow company to be saying.
Are Epik doomed? The apparent deluge of 1 star reviews on Trustpilot since Brian Royce took charge in September certainly looks that way. Has the appointment of Brian Royce to the position of CEO been the most disasterous decision in recent history in the domain name industry? Only time will tell…
Last Updated: December 14, 2022
Archive link https://web.archive.org/web/20230101214701/https://www.criticalhit.net/technology/brian-royce-epik-ceo-destroys-epik-in-less-than-3-months/
FBI Launch Investigation Into Epik – FBI Fly Agents Out to Epik Customers Who Have Had Their Escrow Money Stolen
By James Porter
Posted on 3 days ago
3 min read
An FBI investigation into Epik has begun, with the FBI flying out agents to different American clients who have had their Escrow money spent by Epik. The investigation and evidence collection phase has been taking place for many weeks, according to two different sources verified by CriticalHit.
One such customer said that the FBI “have emailed us 10+ times” for collecting information as part of their investigation, after their in-person visit.
The heat appears to be increasing on Epik to repay their customers. The sum that Epik owe customers is estimated to be around $20 million, according to research from Derek Peterson, with some individual clients like DomainEmpire being owed $1.5 Million.
When asked about whether the FBI have contacted Epik, CEO Brian Royce refused to comment.
More Attorney General Complaints Submitted
In a conversation with an Epik customer, former CEO Rob Monster confirmed as far back as 18th December 2022 that “counsel is involved”, and that “AG filings did not help anyone”, in reference to the large number of Attorney General filings that were made by Epik customers who had their money spent by Epik. This appears to be having a serious impact on Epik to payout customers.
Brian Royce Has Shares in Epik
Former Epik CEO Rob Monster also confirmed that new CEO Brian Royce has shares in Epik as his main recompense. The structure of ownership at Epik appears to be confusing, as Brian Royce has been on the record to Epik customer’s saying that Rob Monster has nothing more to do with Epik, saying on the 22nd December 2022 “Rob destroyed Epik; I was put in charge of fixing it. He had to resign and now is being forced off the board. He is out”.
In a Skype conversation to a customer, Rob Monster said he was a “~75% shareholder of Epik”, yet Rob Monster is claimed to have been removed as CEO against his will, and been locked out of his Epik email account.
A Namepros post from Derek Peterson said “how can anyone “force him out” or force him to do anything for anything for that matter”, if he had 75% of the shareholding. He went onto say “fraud, embezzlement, wire fraud and money laundering are serious crimes and probably make for pretty good leverage points”, as a way for Rob Monster to stand down as CEO, despite having a 75% shareholding.
Brad Mugford said, in reference to Derek Peterson’s claims “If this is the case, and it is suspected that crimes have been committed, they should be reported to the authorities. If Brian and others believe that is the case, but instead use that as leverage to to compel behavior they want, they are opening themselves up to potential issues.”
The ongoing FBI investigation will likely identify whether criminality on the part of Rob Monster and Brian Royce did, or did not take place.
Namepros user, DomainRecap said “Someone (probably the ~25% ownership) is holding an axe over Rob’s head in order to try and right the ship. Maybe Brian is the 25% or has a close relationship to him/her/them, as I see no other reason to place such a prickly personality in charge of this (cough) “Epik recovery”.
Whatever the current state of ownership and shareholding at Epik, the late filing of Epik’s annual report on the 12th January 2023 showed that Rob Monster was the one and only Governor of the troubled company.
Brad Mugford digged deeper into the annual report, saying “He has not been replaced. No one else has been added as a governor. Also, under the “controlling interest” section no changes were listed. If you believe what Brian Royce said, the controlling interest of the company has changed hands. Why is this not reflected in the filing? The only two conclusions I can reach are –
1.) Controlling interest has not actually changed hands.
2.) Controlling interest has changed hands, but was not properly reported in their filing.”
Epik continue to trade, despite their inability to repay their customers. For how much longer is anyone’s guess…
Last Updated: January 18, 2023
Archive link https://web.archive.org/web/20230122232811/https://www.criticalhit.net/technology/fbi-launch-investigation-into-epik/
Epik Exploitation – Brian Royce Makes Offer to “Steal $50,000 of Kathleen Kalaf’s $100,000”
By James Porter
Posted on 2 days ago
2 min read
The chaos at Epik shows no sign of abating today, as Epik CEO Brian Royce offered to settle Kathleen Kalaf’s $100,000 debt by sending her just $50,000. This is despite Epik acting as the trusted Escrow agent to facilitate the $100k sale of Candida.com for Kathleen Kalaf and the buyer.
The offer Brian Royce made to Kathleen Kalaf was ridiculed on Namepros, with Brad Mugford saying “Do you mind if we only steal half your money?”, with another poster not mincing his words by saying “Brian Royce has stepped over the mark on this one, and surely proves he is as much as a criminal as Rob Monster, with his offer to steal $50,000 of Kathleen Kalaf’s $100,000”.
Brian Royce originally sent a letter to Kathleen Kalaf acknowledging the substantial debt due to her in December, and Royce promised to pay the outstanding amount by the end of January.
Kathleen Kalaf said “He also sent me numerous texts in December, leading me to believe I may be paid by the end of December. It didn’t happen. Over the past 2 weeks, he has led me to believe he will get me paid, and last week asked me if I would settle for $50K, or take a payment plan. I declined on settling. I am not interested in settling for $50K. He then said that he would wire funds to me $50K by Friday 1-20-23, or today, Monday, 1-23-23, and pay the balance to me by the end of February 2023.”
Kalaf then followed up the lack of payment by sending the following email to the Epik CEO.
In the letter, Kalaf made reference to Brian Royce’s failure to keep any promises made by saying “For the past 8 weeks, you have been making promises, stalling me, and leading me on” and speculated that in fact “someone at Epik bought Candida.com, to either re-sell it, or to us it as part of a business valuation or collatertal for a loan. The domain is still parked at Epik, waiting to be adopted. If this was done, this is not legal, and it was done while you were CEO on September 27th”. She continued by saying “I am demanding that you provide some proof that this domain was sold to a third party”.
The possibility that Epik “bought” the domain for $100,000, and placed the unwithdrawable funds in Kalaf’s account may mean that Epik stole the domain, with the hope of reselling it, whilst Brian Royce was in charge.
Brian Royce failed to comment when a copy of the article above was sent to him prior to publication. The FBI investigation into Epik continues.
Last Updated: January 25, 2023
archive link https://web.archive.org/web/20230130084820/https://www.criticalhit.net/technology/epik-exploitation-brian-royce-makes-offer-to-steal-50000-of-kathleen-kalafs-100000/