An individual with close ties to the Kanye camp has allegedly defrauded a South Korean eyewear brand of more than $2.5 million. According to a new lawsuit filed by Gentle Monster, Malik Yusef perpetrated a “flagrant and brazen” scheme to “con Gentle Monster into paying millions of dollars in sham fees” in connection with a music project that never came into fruition because the defendants “neither the ability nor the intent to deliver on their promises,” and instead “were only interested in swindling as much money from Gentle Monster as possible before their scheme was exposed.”
In its complaint, which was filed on Thursday in a California state court against Yusef, as well as Burundi Partlow and Sonja Nuttall, among others, Gentle Monster asserts that by “using his seemingly close relationship with Kanye West,” Yusef was able to “deceive” the LVMH-backed eyewear brand into partnering with him in furtherance of a project to “bring some of the world’s most talented artists together to produce a series of videos designed to increase Gentle Monster’s global brand recognition.”
Based on Yusef’s connections, and his resume (he was nominated for 6 Grammys thanks to his work on various Kanye albums), as well as the “intimate meeting” he arranged between Kanye and Gentle Monster’s U.S. CEO Won Lee, “Gentle Monster reasonably believed that Yusef was being honest about the commitments he claimed that he had procured from Kanye and other artists to work on Gentle Monster’s ambitious campaign to market its latest line of designer sunglasses.”
“Over the next nine months,” Gentle Monster asserts, Yusef and his co-conspirators “engaged in a series of deceptive acts and made a number of fraudulent misrepresentations designed to induce Gentle Monster not only to engage Yusef to work on Project 13.” This included “forging Kanye’s signature, creating a shell entity named after Kanye’s deceased mother, issuing fraudulent invoices made to appear as though they had been issued by legitimate talent agencies, lying about their contacts and work with artists, and, in the end, pocketing more than $2.5 million from Gentle Monster.”
Months after Gentle Monster entered into a deal with Yusef to produce videos for the brand, the company received the first video from Yusef, which :looked nothing like what Gentle Monster had in mind” when it entered into the deal with Yusef. While Yusef held out the video was being written and product by with Kanye and Pharrell, just days after the video was released, “Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, tweeted that Kanye was not involved in producing the video.”
Later that same day, Gentle Monster claims that it “received a letter from Kanye’s counsel, informing them that Kanye had not authorized Gentle Monster to use his name or music in its campaign, and demanding that Gentle Monster remove all references to Kanye from its website.”
Gentle Monster states that “the full extent of Yusef’s scheme is still unknown,” but as now, the defendants have “defrauded Gentle Monster out of well over $2.5 million, its damages far exceed this amount.” As such, Gentle Monster sets forth claims of fraud and intentional deceit, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unfair competition,and is seeking damages of a sum to be determined at trial.
This is not the first time Yusef’s name has been associated with alleged fraud. He is reportedly the figure behind the scheme to scam fashion designer Philipp Plein out of nearly $1 million by entering into a contract offering up West as a performer for Plein’s February 2019 runway show, a performance that never occurred.
*The case is IICOMBINED CO., Ltd., d/b/a Gentle Monster, et al. v. MALIK YUSEF, et al. 19STCV16928 (Cal.Sup).