Revisiting The Washingtonian’s Coverage of Mr. Cranky…. Six Months Later

Six months ago the Washingtonian came out with an article about me… Mr. Cranky. History will show that that article didn’t wear very well. Take for instance this passage:

“No fight epitomizes Hellman’s incendiary style more than his campaign against Trustify, a three-year-old company in Crystal City that has grown to 22 employees, thanks to an intriguing concept—an Uber-like app for private-detective services—and its telegenic, husband-and-wife executives, Danny Boice and Jen Mellon. It’s Hellman’s opinion that Trustify represents everything wrong with Washington’s startup culture: a company, he says, built on gloss rather than substance, sucking up publicity and luring gullible investors.” – Washingtonian

Just three months later, Anchorage Capital, a company that invested $6 million in Trustify is suing the company and its officers, Jen Mellon and Danny Boice for fraud and embezzlement (see post). Four months after the Washingtonian gave Trustify a pass, Trustify has no office, web site, phone, or employees. Danny and Jen are legally separated. Mellon quit the company and resigned from the board. Danny is currently employed elsewhere… perhaps making license plates.

“In the years Trustify has existed, Hellman has devoted at least 30 blog posts to the company, leveling the kinds of uncorroborated accusations and innuendo that typically invite libel suits against mainstream news organizations. Hellman dismisses Trustify as a “dumpster fire,” refers to Mellon as a “publicity whore,” and criticizes the “incredibly stupid investors” who put their money behind the company (Mr. Cranky Note: the investors who now admit they were stupid and are sueing Boice and Mellon). More problematically, he calls Danny Boice a “coward and a crook,” an assertion that Hellman’s editor—if he had one—might have axed on the grounds that Boice has not in fact been convicted, or even charged, with any crimes.”  – Washingtonian

On May 28, 2019, as I write this story, Danny Boice sits in a jail in Loudoun Country. A judge agreed he’s a criminal and sentenced him to Jail on May 5th. FYI Washingtonian, jail is a good place to find criminals.

And the Washingtonian had the audacity to ridicule my artwork.

The article continues to defend Jennifer Mellon and Boice while questioning Mr. Cranky.

“It also might explain why the firm (Trustify) has retained a pricey libel lawyer. In a statement, the attorney, Tom Clare, calls Hellman’s claims “reckless and irresponsible.” Hellman, he says, has “ignored prior demands from the company to cease and desist his false reporting. As such, our firm has been retained to review statements on Hellman’s blog about Trustify and its founders and advise the company regarding potential libel claims.'”  – Washingtonian

“Hellman he says ignored prior demands.” Whoooooo me? Tom Clare, of Clare Locke LLP, proved himself an overpriced, pricey hack of an attorney. Obviously being pricey doesn’t make Clare a good lawyer. Trustify’s feckless, reckless, pricey, libel attorney slandered me in that Washingtonian quote.

As any, half-decent attorney could have figured out, I did not ignore Trustify’s spurious demands. Thankfully, I didn’t overpay for bad advice when I hired a far superior attorney,  Matt MacLean, of Pillsbury (check out this post and look at the great response letter MacLean authored which shut Trustify’s demands down cold). If eckless, slandering, overpriced, Tom Clare had any integrity or cared about the truth he could have googled the facts before he fibbed about me. Only an idiot or a liar would make such a false statement.  (Legal Notice: Let me clarify, I’m not saying Tom Clare is an idiot because he doesn’t know how to use google. He’s an idiot whether he know’s how to use Google or not. Had he used google he would have easily found that he falsely accused me of ignoring prior demands. If he knows how to use Google he either didn’t or he did and found my demand letter blog post. In that case, he doesn’t have the reading comprehension skills to understand that hiring an attorney to respond to a demand letter is not ignoring demands. In the latter case, Claure is careless in the former, he’s an idiot.)

When My attorney responded to Trustify’s demands, Trustify dropped the company’s demands. You want to know why? Because the truth and facts are the best defense against scurrilous libel claims (see post). The best part of the entire “Pricey” Tom Clare affair is that although Tommy was willing to opine to the Washingtonian about my recklessness, six months later he has not been willing to put a subpoena where his mouth is. I have not been served with anything because Tom was likely not hired to be an attorney, he was hired to do damage control to counteract the negativity of a possible Washingtonian article.

In a lawsuit brought against Trustify by Dini Von Mueffling (DVM) the plaintiff states:

“The Washingtonian was going to do a big take down of Mr. Boice and Trustify. DVM spent dozens of hours in interviewing crisis firms, working with a new defamation attorney on Mr. Boice’s behalf, working with the company’s CMO who recently resigned over ethical issues, and crafting messaging for the lawyer to relay to the Editor in Chief of the magazine successfully shut down the worst elements of the story. (emphasis added)” – Dini Von Mueffling versus Trustify in the State of New York

The sweet irony of the “Pricey Attorney Affair,” is that “Pricey” Tom Clare was most likely hired by Dini, which means he probably provided his pricey services for no remuneration and got stiffed. DVM is currently suing Trustify for $180 thousand in back fees and $60 thousand in damages (see post).

Don’t feel bad Tommy. You’re not the only Attorney Danny Boice and Jen Mellon stiffed. They recently lost a lawsuit to their corporate law firm, Buckley for nonpayment. That lawsuit resulted in a $245 thousand dollar judgment against Trustify in favor of Buckley (see post). So Tommy Boy? If you got paid… consider yourself lucky. If you haven’t yet been paid… get in a very long line. Washingtonian, how the hell did you miss this stuff?

In early October, Hellman reported that he got tipped off that Trustify had missed payroll. He ended the post with a warning that “this death spiral is about to hit the ground.” A spokesperson for Trustify, who asked not to be identified, disputes this, saying the company is in “great” financial health.  – Washingtonian

One month after the article, eight former Trustify employees who did not decline to be identified won a court case against the company for not paying the employees their salary (see Washington Business Journal Articles).

According to Andy Medici and published in a Washington Business Journal article behind a paywall, those employees proved to a court they were owed over $30 thousand. Unfortunately, because Trustify is not, as the Washingtonian reported an unnamed spokesman asserted, “in great financial health,” the employees have not received a penny. According to a spokesperson for Mr. Cranky who did not refuse to be named but isn’t named, “stick a fork in Trustify… it’s done… history.”

According to the unnamed, overweight, cranky, old spokesperson for Hellman, Trustify’s scurrilous founders, Jennifer Mellon, and Danny Boice and Trustify are no longer a Dumpster Fire… no, Smokey the Bear would be proud of them because the dumpster fire is out and the ashes are cold. Want some evidence?

  1. Homeless – The Company Was evicted From its offices in Crystal City offices, and it’s Landlord, JBG Smith won a $263 thousand judgment against the company (see Washington Business Journal Article).
  2. No Employees – CEO Danny Boice is in Jail. Retroactive co-founder, Jen Mellon is now a presidential appointee employed as the confidential secretary to FERC Commissioner, Neil Chatterjee. The company is gone.
  3. Website – The website is down and the URL has expired.
  4. Phone Disconnected – The companies phone number is disconnected
  5. Real Estate Transactions – As of this writing, Danny Boice and Jen Mellons, $1.5 million, Alexandria Home and $1.2 million, NJ Beach Home went up for sale and are under contract (see article).
  6. Investors Are Suing The Company into Bankruptcy – In March, Anchorage Investors asked a court to put the company into receivership.
  7. Private School Lawsuit – A tawny private school is suing Boice for breach of contract, non-payment of tuition.

I’d say a dumpster fire was a pretty accurate description of Mr. Boice and Mrs. Mellon’s company. Yet the Washingtonian did not agree in the December article. They went on to assert that Mr. Hellman made egregious accusations.

Most egregiously, Hellman accuses the couple of federal crimes such as tax and wire fraud as well as embezzlement, without providing much evidence besides information from anonymous sources who claim to have worked for the company.  – Washingtonian

Really? Egregious? Egregious as in –  especially: conspicuously bad: FLAGRANT? Is it egregious to say the White House is White? Is it egregious to say a bear shits in the woods (well maybe the potty mouth or fingers because I typed this is kind of egregious)? No, it isn’t. Do you know what’s egregious? How poorly the Washingtonian article aged. Because 6 months after you published that article:

  1. Not only should Danny Boice be in jail as I said… he is actually in a Loudoun County jail.
  2. One lawsuit documents that Boice made multiple deposits $750 thousand dollars deposits out of the company and into a private LLC.
  3. More public evidence of fraud, evidence, and corruption perpetrated by Danny Boice and Jennifer Mellon is added to the public record each day in lawsuits (see post).
  4. In a personal blog post, Danny Boice reveals that he is under investigation by the FBI (see WBJ article).
  5. During Boice’s sentencing to jail on May 5th, he told the Judge he is likely to be serving time in a Federal Prison soon.

So yes, Washingtonian, you got it wrong. I have received multiple messages from people who read my articles and did not invest in Trustify. I did them a service. Had Anchorage Capital listened to my warnings, they would have saved their Limited Partner investors $6 million in senseless losses. Anchorage actually did read my Trustify articles, but like you, they were assured by Mellon and Boice that I was a nut job (no argument there). Like you, they didn’t dig deeper. Like you, they failed their constituents.

Every dollar that went into the fraudulent company and the hands of criminals like Danny Boice and Jen Mellon is a dollar that didn’t go to an authentic deserving entrepreneur. It could have helped honest entrepreneurs build companies of real value, create employment and build a vibrant startup ecosystem in this region. Every time a criminal defrauds a startup investor, the investor is likely to never invest again. Jen Mellon and Danny Boice have damaged the regions startup ecosystem.

I don’t get paid for writing my blog (I know it’s obvious that it’s amateur and more people would pay me to stop writing than continue). I don’t do it for money. I’m not looking for kudos. I’m not looking for thanks. Want to know what I’m looking for Washingtonian? An apology for the shoddy pusillanimous work you did on this article. You were scared of a lawsuit and you punted. You did an injustice to your audience and to me. I’m looking for you to admit you got it wrong. You got it wrong.