Prosecutors: CEO Took 'Hundreds of Thousands' From Own Workers

Isaac Choi, former chief exec of WrkRiot, pleads guilty to wire fraud
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2018 9:35 AM CST
Isaac Choi now faces up to 20 years in prison.   (Getty Images/CHUYN)

(Newser) – The startup's motto was "No games. Just jobs." Except there were some games, too. Isaac Choi, the former CEO of short-lived tech startup WrkRiot—which developed software to be used in job searches before its closure in September 2016—pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court Monday after lying about his background and defrauding employees out of wages, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. According to prosecutors, 36-year-old Choi stopped paying employees shortly after WrkRiot's founding (the company also went by the names 1for.one and JobSonic) and forged wire transfer confirmations to suggest payments were coming. As former employee Penny Kim wrote in a 2016 Medium post, it was an intern who discovered wire transfer confirmations sent to 17 employees were actually photoshopped, per the San Francisco Weekly.

All this went down amid greater chaos at the startup. Kim said Choi borrowed $50,000 from one employee after claiming $2 million he planned to invest was tied up in offshore accounts. "In total, Choi collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own employees through false representations about the company's financial health and his own ability to financially support WrkRiot in its early stages of development," reads an indictment filed in June 2017, per the San Jose Mercury News. Prosecutors say Choi—who was operating under at least four different names—also falsely claimed to have a degree from New York University and to have previously worked as an analyst at JPMorgan. Released on bond Monday after seven months in custody, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He's due to be sentenced May 24. (This rocker faces 30 years in prison on fraud charges.)

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