What started out as an amusing case of a bizarrely-branded folding smartphone has now evolved into a legal drama. Escobar Inc, the shady phone company run by Pablo Escobar’s brother, is suing its chief operations officer for allegedly extorting the company for money and hijacking its extremely meme-worthy YouTube account.
The court documents, which were filed late last week in Nevada and spotted by The Register, paint a fairly unsurprising picture of Escobar Inc’s dysfunction. The documents accuse former COO Daniel Reitberg of basically locking the company out of its own YouTube account. The channel’s password was known only by Reitberg and Escobar Inc CEO Olof Gustafsson. At some point, Reitberg changed the password and is now supposedly holding the account for ransom in exchange for handing over the password. Escobar Inc alleges that its YouTube channel, which Reitberg initially set up in 2019, is the company’s primary advertising platform with over 4.5 million views and has “enjoyed tremendous success” via over $1 million made in sales.
The filing also details a series of events where Reitberg was allegedly fired in November 2019 for failing to pay invoices and creditors, managed to talk his way into being rehired in March 2020, and then days later abandoned his post after funneling thousands of dollars made from Escobar merchandise sales. Reitberg also allegedly destroyed “all evidence linking the money in the bank accounts to Escobar purchase orders.”
All of this tracks with Escobar Inc’s folding phone woes. The company initially launched the $350 Pablo Escobar Fold 1 in December 2019—and surprising no one, it was a rebranded Royole FlexPai with a gold sticker and creepy Pablo Escobar wallpaper slapped on. Then in February, the company began advertising the $400 Pablo Escobar Fold 2, which was clearly a rebranded Samsung Galaxy Fold with yet again, another gold sticker paint job and creepy Pablo Escobar wallpaper. The Fold 2 also came with some questionable advertising meant to “kill Samsung”, for which Samsung then slapped Escobar Inc with a lawsuit for cybersquatting on the RIPSamsung.com domain.
At the time, Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria—Pablo Escobar’s brother—said he’d gotten a deal from Chinese suppliers, calling himself the “overstock kingpin of electronical devices” in a press release. (Yes, he wrote electronical.) That seemed to be a nice way of saying the company “found” some Samsung phones that fell off a truck. Though, Gustafsson apparently told YouTuber Mrwhosetheboss that Escobar Inc brokered a deal with Chinese wholesalers to buy up phones that failed Samsung’s quality control, returned units, and overstock.
The accusation that Reitberg “deleted proprietary financial data regarding past sales” also seems like a convenient, handy excuse to explain why folks hoping to score a deal on a Galaxy Fold have been stiffed—though the more likely explanation is the whole Escobar-branded folding phone scheme is a plain old scam. Some people online who paid the initial $350 for the Fold 1 only received a bizarre book about Pablo Escobar’s exploits and were then offered an upgrade to the Fold 2 that never materialized. Meanwhile, it seems only popular YouTube reviewers have even received a Fold 2. (Gizmodo reached out to Escobar Inc to see if we’d get a review unit, but were ultimately ghosted.)
Ultimately, Escobar Inc is looking for damages, citing the Nevada Uniform Trade Secrets Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as the password to its own YouTube channel. Though, to be fair, perhaps this is just karma for trying to grift people in the first place.