By Lucas Van De Graaff, Marketing –
The TV show “Shark Tank” is where the best product campaign ideas are invested in, the ones that will make a lot of money and will take off. I imagine they must have a good screening process into the legitimacy of one’s product lineup before the product even makes it on the show, but this time the whole nation got scammed by a “Shark Tank” winner that continued to defraud investors for years because he was on the show.
Joseph Falcone appeared on Season 2 and Season 3 of “Shark Tank”, marketing his product Copa di Vino, a single-service wine glass in a sealed container developed and marketed by his company 3G’s VINO LLC at the time. He reeled in investors with his “Shark Tank” pitch, drawing in millions of dollars that he claimed were solely to fund the Copa di Vino.
He ended up “comingling [investment] funds with personal funds”, using about $527,000 of that money for his own personal use. As the expenses grew, so did his inability to pay back his investors because the money was all disappearing into his personal funds until it became impossible to pay them all back. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and was subsequently ordered to pay $1.8 million in reparations to investors and was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
There is one consolation to this story, something that is rather rare in fraud cases: Falcone wrote a letter to the judge in a sentencing memorandum declaring his guilt and included a sincere apology for his actions and that he had no choice but to accept full responsibility. This doesn’t change anything about the situation, and it came after the sentencing so it hardly mattered, but it was an unexpected act of moral responsibility.
As is the case in so many fraud cases, honesty could have avoided all this. “Shark Tank” was found to be innocent in this scam, but a simple EyeDetect®-assisted interview with their candidates about their intentions with their product and the actual efficacy of the products they are pitching would have made things simpler. EyeDetect is an innovative lie detector that is fast, cheap, and very accurate. Institutionalizing this could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in Falcone’s case and could prevent several millions more in the future.
Photo by /Mona Miller