The HBO Max true-crime docuseries “Generation Hustle” is shining new light on the unlikely story of how a conman bilked a range of Alabama investors, including a tech pioneer, out of $1.9 million.
The true crime docu-series, now streaming, bills itself as featuring “outrageous and high-stakes new stories about brilliant and brazen young individuals, some of whom go too far by pulling off the most wildly inventive scams of our time.”
Among its rogues gallery is Kyle Geoffrey Sandler, a Maryland transplant to Alabama who formed the Round House in Opelika as a launching pad for new tech companies in October 2014.
Sandler advertised the Roundhouse as a business incubator company to help develop new and startup companies by providing services such as venture capital, office space, 1-gigabit Internet and management training.
And though he told locals he was a former Google executive, Sandler had arrests for theft, forgery and check fraud, and convictions in two states for attempted theft and forgery.
In all, authorities said, Sandler raked in investments totaling about $1.9 million from more than 50 investors, all the while diverting their money for his personal expenses such as child care, rent and cars.
Sandler also aligned himself with John McAfee, the antivirus software entrepreneur, and landed national media coverage for an Opelika teenager with an idea for a new kind of vending machine said to be worth millions.
Taylor Rosenthal, a 13-year-old at the time, had a plan for selling first-aid supplies, which morphed into a vending machine dispensing injury-specific products. Sandler led the teen to believe he had offers from Johnson & Johnson and Six Flags.
The Round House closed in December 2016. Sandler was arrested in Texas in June 2018, weeks after records show he and a young woman formed a startup media company in College Station with plans to sell as much as $650 million in shares with a minimum investment of $10,000.
“He swindled an entire community,” Amanda Senn, deputy director of the Alabama Securities Commission, said in an interview two years ago.
In the course of the story, McAfee, a self-described “eccentric millionaire,” launched a bid to run for President of the United States and set up an Opelika campaign headquarters.
Sandler eventually pleaded guilty in 2018 to one court of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. He was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, and ordered to return $1.9 million to investors.
McAfee also landed in other trouble.
Earlier this year, he was indicted on fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges, alleging that he and others made more than $13 million by fooling investors zealous over the emerging cryptocurrency market.