His name, until 2016, was Drew Morrison. A Washington state agency found Drew Morrison engaged in illegal business practices and repeatedly misled investors. Courts in Arizona and Washington ruled in favor of two investors in his businesses who filed civil lawsuits against him, awarding damages, interest and attorneys’ fees totaling more than $1 million, most of which the parties say he hasn’t paid.
After losing in court, Drew Morrison moved to Chicago and changed his name to Andrew Jang and launched his new business. The Washington court that ruled against him has issued a bench warrant for his arrest. In one ruling, a judge said he “fled the State of Washington and changed his name and identity so as to conceal his identity and whereabouts.”
Mr. Jang and his lawyers deny any wrongdoing. “There’s no evidence that the past businesses of Andrew were fraudulent,” said Jamal Jackson, Mr. Jang’s attorney.
Mr. Jang says the ruling in Washington was the result of his financial inability to defend himself. But in a March 1 email to past investors, after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal, he wrote: “I was not honest with you all back then…You all deserved better, you all deserved the truth and I was a coward for not offering it.”
Interviews, court documents and the investigation by Washington’s Department of Financial Institutions show how Mr. Jang operated and evaded court rulings, only to reappear running a high-profile business in the sports world.
“He’s very charismatic. You want to trust him,” says Gary Woolever, a 66-year-old Arizona resident who sued Mr. Jang in Washington state and has for years obsessively tracked him, trying to collect his money. “Looking back on it, I was the perfect target.”
In 2009, Mr. Woolever says, he was introduced to Drew Morrison, who pitched him on an investment vehicle, Path Investments Group LLC, to buy distressed properties in Arizona and flip them for big gains. Mr. Woolever says he invested $425,000 and another Arizona resident—Drew Morrison’s former girlfriend, Rochelle Rice—lent the business $55,000.
But Mr. Woolever found Mr. Morrison difficult to get in touch with. When they did speak, Mr. Morrison failed to produce paperwork documenting the business. Mr. Woolever and his lawyer say, after receiving subpoenas for bank records and conducting depositions, they later found no evidence that any property was actually purchased with Mr. Woolever’s money on behalf of the business.
In 2010, Drew Morrison moved Path to Kirkland, Wash., and established a new venture, “On The Go,” a smartphone app for travelers, and began operating out of the Seattle area, according to Washington state’s investigation and interviews. He recruited more investors saying the app would soon be worth $100 million. “On The Go” later became “CityGuru,” which hosted VIP-type events.
“I thought that was going to be the next Google,” said Mr. Morrison, adding he thought he would be “the next Paul Allen or Tim Cook.”
Those lofty goals included sketchy promises to investors. In one instance he presented Sarah Gotham, who had already invested in Path, with another opportunity to invest in a business, and she told him in an email she could get together $4,600, “and that’s me scrounging every penny.” In a reply, Mr. Morrison said that $4,600 would produce a $92,000 return “at the worst case,” according to emails reviewed by the Journal.
Mr. Woolever filed a civil lawsuit against Drew Morrison in January 2013 over a promissory note Mr. Morrison signed for $489,181 and hadn’t repaid. Ms. Rice filed her lawsuit, in Arizona, in November 2013. Court documents, interviews with investors and Drew Morrison’s own deposition show he was difficult to track down and frequently failed to produce financial records, either for investors or the court. “I’ve never had a problem tracking somebody down like this,” said Michael Nysather, Ms. Rice’s attorney.
The Washington court found that Drew Morrison falsified financial records in the case with Mr. Woolever. After receiving a subpoena to bring all his bank records for a video deposition, Drew Morrison showed up without them.
“Why didn’t you bring those bank records?” questioned Bruce Danielson, Mr. Woolever’s attorney in the May 28, 2015 deposition.
“Just didn’t,” Drew Morrison replied.
In 2016, he didn’t show up for a court date in the case. “I stopped going to court,” he says now. Drew Morrison had left Seattle and gone to Chicago, where he began using the name Andrew Jang. Mr. Jang, an adoptee, says he made the change to his Korean birth name to move past the Seattle life that was now in tatters. “It wasn’t to escape anything,” he says. (He legally changed his name in 2017.)
Andrew Jang soon received a big break in the form of a very big man.
A mutual acquaintance introduced Mr. Jang to Travis King, an agent who represents NBA players. Mr. Jang, who had some experience in the fashion industry, showed him some of his suit designs, they said. Mr. King arranged for him to dress Skal Labissiere, a 6-foot-11 Kentucky star who was expected to be a top selection at the 2016 NBA Draft. That same day, Mr. Jang says he established Vogue Individual LLC in Delaware to house a fashion line he called Adriaen Black.
“He had a really good vibe,” Mr. King said. “I didn’t do a whole lot of research on him.”
Mr. Labissiere was picked in the first round, but his fuchsia blazer got more attention. Fashion pundits effusively praised Mr. Labissiere’s aesthetic. Suddenly, everyone wanted to work with the little-known man who designed his outfit. One client led to more. NFL teams welcomed him into their facilities to take players’ measurements and dress them.
Four days after the draft, however, Washington’s Department of Financial Institutions found Drew Morrison had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and “repeatedly made misleading claims regarding the profit potential of the investment” and violated state laws, according to their statement of charges. The state’s findings said in some instances, investor money was deposited directly into his personal bank account without being returned. But investigators said they couldn’t serve the charges, or impose the $50,000 in fines, because Mr. Jang had left the state.
Then a few weeks later, the court in Washington issued a bench warrant calling for his arrest if he was found in the state.
Meanwhile, Mr. Woolever and his lawyer called Mr. Jang’s acquaintances and scoured news clips. “He just loves the press,” said Mr. Danielson, Mr. Woolever’s attorney. “I figured he would eventually have his face pop up somewhere. Lo and behold, it did.”
They found his face in a newspaper article using facial recognition software, Mr. Danielson said, and discovered his new life as a designer. They made contact with Mr. Jang but made little progress recovering the money. The parties briefly entered a settlement agreement for a reduced fee. Mr. Jang paid Mr. Woolever about $250,000 before ceasing payments and defaulting on the agreement, the parties say.
These problems apparently were not known to Mr. Jang’s new customers in the sports world. “When Pro-Ballers Want an Amazing Suit, They Call Jang,” read a headline from Bloomberg in October.
The Miami Dolphins had him speak at their weeklong “business combine” last year. Three NFL players later spent a day interning with Mr. Jang, he said.
A Dolphins spokesman said the team was not aware of Mr. Jang’s past and said he would not be a part of the team’s programming going forward.
One NFL player was set to invest in Mr. Jang’s clothing business, which the player was told was worth more than $25 million, according to his financial adviser. The player sent the contract for the promissory note to his financial adviser, who immediately flagged concerns; for example, the financial terms were different than what were described in an email, the adviser said.
The player didn’t sign the deal. Mr. Jang described it as a miscommunication.
“There were a lot of red flags,” said David Born, the financial adviser for the player, who asked not to be named. “We dodged a bullet.”
Write to Andrew Beaton at firstname.lastname@example.org