Asian American-founded circus troupe say Silicon Valley exec left his $50,000 bill unpaid


An Asian American-founded circus group is raising funds to help make up for the $50,000 allegedly due to them since the height of the pandemic by a Silicon Valley executive.

YetiZen co-founder Japheth Dillman, who was arrested by the FBI in April for allegedly defrauding people into investing in a cryptocurrency trading fund, is now being accused by San Francisco-based circus group The Dahlias of failing to pay them for a circus performance on July 25, 2021.

Dillman invited The Dahlias to perform for a friend's birthday party, said Christine Lee, one of the four Asian American women who co-founded the circus troupe.

Lee said she had been friends with Dillman for approximately 10 years.

"We met when I worked in the gaming industry," Lee told NextShark. "I was at Chartboost and he was at YetiZen, and our companies worked together and we'd hang out at industry events, conferences, etc."

Lee said Dillman verbally agreed to pay for the performance at the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California. Screenshots of their alleged conversations show Dillman saying he would "triple" whatever the "normal rates" are for everyone.

Dillman ultimately offered to pay $50,000 for the performance, as seen in screenshots of the text message conversation between him and Lee. However, Lee and her group have yet to receive a penny exactly one year later, she said.

To help recover their losses, The Dahlias - which Lee co-founded with Nina Sawant, Angela Chu and Teri Wing - set up a fundraiser on Facebook. So far, they have managed to collect $8,000 but are still partially in debt.

The group also faces the possibility of closing their business.

"We very recently came out and public with this to create a fundraiser. So far we've already raised $8,000 and we are SO SO grateful, but we're still $12,000 in debt from what we paid out to performers, and 42k below the amount he [Dillman] committed to," Lee said. "If we didn't do this fundraiser, we'd be in debt and would likely have to shut down our small business, but not exactly sure what we would have done."

Since the troupe went public to share their experience, Lee said others have reached out to her with similar accusations against Dillman - many of whom were minority women.

"The thing that breaks my heart is after I went public with what he did, a number of women and minority women reached out to me with similar stories and frustrations. I've been in shock," Lee said. "Every person said that Japheth scammed them, and then they were afraid to go public and have personally thanked me for going public because he absolutely needs to be outed."

Per the advice of the FBI, The Dahlias have decided not to press charges against Dillman, who is already facing a wire fraud count for allegedly misrepresenting the status and functionality of the technology behind Block Bits Fund. Dillman and 42-year-old David Mata - who was also charged in the scheme - allegedly raised $960,000 by defrauding investors.

"Based on the recommendation from the FBI, we are not [pressing charges] because he apparently has no money," Lee said. "We'd only just lose more money, which we can't afford."

Still, Lee warned the public of Dillman and "other scammers and swindlers."

"People need to know what this person is capable of, and apparently, he's still trying to fundraise and do deals. Be aware of other scammers and swindlers out there, especially one who seemingly targets minority women," Lee said.

In response to Lee's accusations, Dillman said the amount is in dispute "over a contract I never signed," according to GamesBeat. He also said he is "in the process of settling that personal matter."

The Dahlias are planning to hold a virtual and in-person show on Aug. 23. It will include acts from the performance they put on in Dillman's event "so they can actually be celebrated the right way."


Featured Image via Christine Lee for NextShark


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