The investors whose $190 million investment in biometrics startup Pay by Touch is now at risk can't say they didn't know any better. Founder and chairman John Rogers "is just this side of a con man," writes a Valleywag commenter who claims to be a former Pay by Touch employee. Rogers, it turns out, has a history of scandals. There was the time Rogers reportedly blackmailed his girlfriend's husband with threats to turn the cuckold into the IRS. Charming, eh? Here are highlights from a 2001 article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
- Rogers admits he has a "checkered past," including unpaid tax liens and other civil judgments.
- He once owed the state of Minnesota more than $20,000 in unpaid taxes.
- In the early 1990s, Rogers bought an apartment building, collected rents, and then never made loan payments until the bank foreclosed.
- One former girlfriend, Kelli Carlson, took out a restraining order against Rogers in 1998 after he promised to put her in jail "and make your life hell."
- Finally, the woman whose husband Rogers turned over to the IRS took out a restraining order against him because of "threatening and intimidating behavior" by Rogers as well as "possessiveness and intrusion into my current life."
Yes, this is the guy Pay By Touch backer's put $190 million behind. Silicon Valley is such a forgiving place. When there's money to be made, background checks just slow things down.