He Was a Rich NFL Star. He Got Scammed in Silicon Valley

Inside the odd story of Eren Niazi, Patrick Willis, and Open Storage Solutions
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2016 1:13 PM CST
NFL Star Met a Tech Luminary. Then His Money Was Gone
In tis Dec. 23, 2013, file photo, San Francisco 49ers Patrick Willis is shown.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(Newser) – Open Source Storage is a phoenix of sorts, reborn in 2013 from the ashes of the original Open Source Storage. It was founded by a twenty-something man named Eren Niazi in 2001 and ultimately bankrupted, but not before supposedly working with the likes of AOL, Sony, and the NSA. Niazi's tech pedigree is kind of staggering: He has counted Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak among his friends, and helped rescue Mark Zuckerberg from a coding nightmare created by Zuck's engineers. Except as Salvador Rodriguez writes for Inc., it might all be an incredible scam fueled by a former NFL star's millions. Patrick Willis retired from the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 and joined Niazi as an investor, board member, and executive VP for partnerships.

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He and Niazi were bizarrely close in the office, former employee Gracie Gato tells Inc., with Niazi accompanying Willis wherever he went. Gato was brought on in March of this year as an engineer. Except, as she ended up telling the FBI, she never wrote any code, and after being promoted to head of customer support, realized there weren't any customers. As far as Gato was able to determine, Willis' money was sustaining the scam. Willis apparently agrees. He filed suit in two California counties last month accusing his one-time partner of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, alleging he "lost substantial sums through [Niazi's] unsuitable and imprudent investments." Those suits came after Niazi was arrested on Sept. 29 for a bizarre incident involving a gun and what's thought to be Willis' Super Bowl helmet. Could it be part of the scam, too? Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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