Conventions warn furries of repeat scammer from 2015 “Traceponies” scandal
by Patch O'Furr
Updated with new info (5/9/22)
A scam is targeting furry convention goers and vendors. It’s named Furry Swap Meet. Cons and fandom lawyers like Boozy Badger and Buddy Goodboy are putting out Bewares. The scam is advertising “partner” events to coincide with official events, but there’s no real partnership. It’s trying to use false impressions to rent dealer tables, compete with cons for attendance, exploit their hard work and ride their coat tails.
This isn’t a single-source complaint; it’s a united warning from many official channels. But after you read them, there’s way more to tell you. They don’t connect the history of greedy line-pushing by a practiced serial scammer behind it. You can connect the dots from this furry news story. Even if you don’t need bewares, it’s a fascinating case for how much manipulation a fandom can harbor.
*clicks through link sent to me for someone's new furry business idea*
Oh god no.
No no no no no.
— Col. Boozy Badger (@BoozyBadger) April 20, 2022
We have been notified of another organization claiming to provide vender spaces near our event.
BLFC is NOT affiliated or in ANY way connected with any other organizations offering vendor spaces.
— Biggest Little Fur Con (@BiggestLittleFC) April 20, 2022
NOTICE: We are in no way affiliated with any 3rd party ticket providers or "partner events.” All charity operations, registration, and vendor activities are managed in house. We urge you to think critically about 3rd parties claiming to be collecting donations or registrations
— AnthrOhio 2022: Tech Noir (@anthrohio) April 20, 2022
There's the boom. https://t.co/Jwp1b0Sv5I
— Col. Boozy Badger (@BoozyBadger) April 20, 2022
Okay, here’s the deal as far as I can tell: https://t.co/11CQBAu78G is an organization setting up events parallel to and unconnected to major furry cons. They work with Neil Wacaster, formerly of Artworktee, who’s been embroiled in controversy. I would not give them money. pic.twitter.com/0MhCw81CQW
— Buddy Goodboy (@BuddyGoodboyEsq) April 20, 2022
Updated with thread — A gracious thank-you to Buddy Goodboy for research and alerting the public too.
Jeffery Neil Wacaster is the person behind Furry Swap Meet, AKA Hot Fudge Husky / Neil Fox.
Jeffery Neil Wacaster — previously known as “Drawponies” — was rejected out of the My Little Pony fandom in 2015 for his “Traceponies” scandal (more on that soon). He then pivoted to furry fandom, bringing the same old tricks under a new brand. It worked, because furries haven’t reacted or documented things like bronies did. Then came problem after problem after problem…
Check out how Wacaster introduces himself on his Linkedin page:
It says expertise in guerrilla marketing… that’s a far too nice term for how shady this gets!
The million dollar sales claim also touts charity fundraising, which sounds nice. Charity isn’t always altruistic, of course; think of a robber baron building a library in his name to look good with money from plundering and exploiting people. Buying goodwill can be as effective as advertising for sales, or doing PR for damage control… but what about doing fair business in the first place?
Wacaster’s 2012 college thesis was about venture capitalism and entrepreneurship. It has a line that sums up the Machiavellian behavior in this story:
To get ahead any way he can, Wacaster now uses business brand accounts and personal account Hot Fudge Husky on Twitter, Youtube, Furaffinity, F-List, etc. It’s hard to even count how many other scam accounts he uses, as you’ll see. (Update: He changed the personal account to Neil Fox after this story came out.)
The blueprint: Methods of the original Traceponies scandal
Last decade, Wacaster’s Drawponies brand was everywhere at My Little Pony fan cons. His dealer operation reaped profits from large-scale competition against small artists. Then Wacaster was caught tracing frames of the official MLP show to crank out and sell falsely advertised “original” art.
As angry fans saw it, Wacaster had cheated to compete and took dealer space that crowded out better talents, rode on top of labor that built the events, and took advantage of volunteer mods for his own groups. Fans do this work for love… but Wacaster’s Linkedin calls their cons “Trade shows.” (Hasbro might have something to say about trade from THEIR property.)
Brony news site Horse News reported about Wacaster’s fall from grace and con bans after the scandal. It’s crazy how the news is needed again 7 years later… will he ever learn?
- DRAWPONIES SCANDAL! Popular artist caught tracing the show… by his own fanclub!
- DrawPonies Scandal Day 2: Damage Report
- Drawponies Scandal Day 3 – The final word on #traceponies
The pivot: Artworktee (no longer owned by Wacaster)
With Drawponies done, founding a new merchandise business could have been a clean slate for clean methods. Serving the fandom from within is desirable to many artists. Artworktee had that demand, and, because a new person owns it in 2022, it’s worth being careful not to hurt the brand and its users.
Wacaster is no longer there, but his former management can still get put on record. It used shady methods like systematically spamming “popufurs” with generic marketing (targeting them by follower count, like cogs in the influencer industry), and underpaying artists. Some criticism was temporarily soothed by team PR. Some was reported here with focus on cut-throat “growth hacking” like mainstream startups do (is fandom just for grabbing customers?)
Wacaster’s marketing reached people who must have had little idea about what was under the hood. “Popufurs” joined to have their merch represented. Many put their faces on a “<Fursona> Fan Club” line of shirts. But then it gained criticism for allowing merch of the racist, pro-fascist 2 Gryphon. Artworktee added a “we don’t support him” label (while it stayed for sale on the site) — until the label was pointed out as quietly removed (while it stayed for sale on the site) — and then 2 Gryphon was dropped. Read between the lines to see only caring if it looked good.
Apart from that stumble, an animal charity crowdfund was launched and supported by popular furries, reaping goodwill for Artworktee with $66,156 in donations in June 2019. But greed doesn’t stay satisfied…
Kickstarter trouble and the LGBT “Furry and Proud” campaign
The charity success coincided with a separate huge crowdfund that Wacaster undoubtedly envied. Fursona Pins had a record six-figure Kickstarter fund for LGBT Pride-themed pins, shooting up to $249,610 on July 1, 2019. 3 months later, Artworktee imitated this with a Pride-themed shirt line on Kickstarter, resembling something for charity. It was actually for profit, and used careless methods that Fursona Pins took care not to do.
Some supporters complained about being misled, with receipts on the Know Your Meme page for the Furry and Proud line.
I didn’t follow the Furry and Proud campaign after it ended at $35,511 in support, but a year later, comments piled up about failure to deliver shirts and shirts being sold on the store before being delivered to backers. In the next year, Artworktee went bankrupt, and Wacaster is out. The new owners mentioned a “Kickstarter Debacle.” Perhaps bankruptcy could be counted against Wacaster, but it also was the year of Covid-19, and Artworktee serves a real demand (wouldn’t it be nice to build small fandom business to do service, not grab power?) It has a clean slate to reorganize now.
Furrymemes: Systematic art theft for clout
Wacaster’s methods for boosting sales and crowdfunds were more shady than most people knew. Here’s a great scam you can repeat forever:
- Scrape industrial quantities of “memes” from the most popular furry Reddit posts. (Read: stealing art from the original makers.)
- Use a bot to repost memes to Twitter as insincere fan love, but only offer to take down stolen art if noticed. (Read: clout arbitrage.)
- Pump Furrymemes account over 10k followers, because people follow and share without thinking.
- Switch the account to a store or other front, then take the old name with a new small account. Pump it up again.
- Repeat forever using the same name, profile pic, and scraped content. Sharers won’t notice the switching.
- Shill merchandise with the deceptively pumped up accounts, sometimes selling extremely problematic products…
This scam was also behind switching Furrymemes to a furry news site (Awoonews) with attached Patreon. It sputtered and died from exploiting volunteers to write for free, reposting more stolen art, taking Patron money for it, and shilling merchandise until that backfired. Awoo News is now a suspended account.
Accounts like these, despite linking to the artist, basically divert traffic away from them in a "this account posts art almost daily with credit so there's no need to follow the actual artists" kinda way.
An example being in them having 13k+ followers and you only having 5k.
— Jennah Saburashii (@JENNAAAAAAAAHHH) February 10, 2020
Bot-powered industrial clout-chasing and aggressive “growth hacking” is the opposite of what personal fandom is for. (Furries are born when they think: “I can have my own unique fursona with my own art…”)
This led to incidents like posting scraped “memes” that were hateful chan posts — which tells you the quality of clout-chasing content — and a mini-scandal when a Furrymemes account switched to a sex toy store.
Furrysexshop tries to cash in clout, gets backlash up the butt
Stolen art could transform to profit, Wacaster hoped, if a switched account could shill drop-shipped buttplug tails. Drop-shipping is a business method where an outside business fulfills products by mail. The seller never touches them, so quality control is nonexistent. The seller collects money and maybe the buyer has no idea, except it’s hard to get refunds.
For Wacaster’s Furrysexshop, cheap chinese sources were meant to provide “faux fur” tailplugs, but the products held a surprise…
Answers about what the next one would be rebranded to — a drop ship operation https://t.co/3cxwpsub32
— Dogpatch Press (@DogpatchPress) December 29, 2019
to someone for having made 3 clics and have no guarantee about the product
I call this a scam
Plus their communication is made through a transfomed twitter account + @furry__memes
— Silou SnowCat (@Silou_Atien) December 18, 2019
The “faux fur” sold through markets like Alibaba was believed to be real animal parts from shady chinese fur-farms. Animal welfare laws? Who needs those when your art theft/clout scam can make a buck? The backlash made Wacaster delete the store.
Advanced clout chasing: Awoo News and Global Furry TV
Think of how shady it would be to run scams on the fandom, AND run one of the few news sites that could report on them… what a conflict of interest and treacherous control of the narrative!
(For example, see the Washington Post owned by billionaire Amazon owner Jeff Bezos… Dogpatch Press is proudly independent of any other fandom business.)
Filling Awoo News with fan-made news lacked a crucial ingredient: having volunteers naive enough to work for free for Wacaster implies lack of insight for news. It’s like hiring the blind to draw your art. It led to getting a teenage editor with his own hobby channel called Global Furry TV, who announced their partnership (with no transparency about editing Awoo News too, Wacaster’s for-profit business or how it was pumped by clout scams.) The former Awoo News editor/partner carries on the quality with both-sidesing to defend shady figures, partnering with other shady figures, and even spreading defenses for groups like the Furry Raiders while accusing the fandom of “politics” or division in “controversies”. (There’s no controversy in rejecting malice and scams, of course.)
⚠️ PLEASE STOP FOLLOWING THESE ACCOUNTS ⚠️
@.Artworktee & @.Awoonews are made by a notorious scam artist, w/ this being their newest endeavor
If you see content from any other "furry meme" sites in their RTs, assume they're all part of the same scandal.
STOP supporting them!! https://t.co/Z0oTHGBDtd
— 🌺Zahzu-Lemur & a Zebra🦓 || 💙💛 (@Zahzu) December 30, 2019
Hazbin Hotel Fanworks: Youtube channel that uses fan art to pump crypto investing, but the channel was ironically stolen.
Wacaster’s move after bankruptcy with shirts was to build a 185K follower video channel: “Comic Dubs for the Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss Universes.” The fandubs takes fan-made comics from an indie property (so, probably lacking lawyers to defend the property) and applies new voices. There’s a sneaky way to upload/recycle a bunch of content you didn’t create, say you’re adding something original (or call it fair use), and ride the coat tails up to 185K followers. Maybe a lot of them are kids.
Did you think this is about enjoying fandom with them? Ha ha!! Wacaster’s co-admins had their marks lined up. With 43 million views for comics, it doesn’t matter what they’re for; that can drive a lot of traffic for crypto investing scams the channel also pumps.
Wacaster’s access to 185K followers was cut off when his crypto scam partner (Crowley) stole it from him and locked him out on Youtube, leaving him a small 3K Twitter for the channel. It led to dueling accusations about theft and legal battle. The Youtube now just posts game streams with cratered views.
More about Furry Swap Meet and Hot Fudge Husky / Neil Fox
Here we are back at the latest scam. It changed after bad notice; it might have some kind of too-late spin about being nonprofit.
Wacaster did have a nonprofit set up, Fandom Fund. That nonprofit was supposedly based in Arkansas. No nonprofits by that name are registered in Arkansas. Fandom Fund Inc is dissolved in Indiana as of March 2022. I don’t know if there is reorganizing going on, but cons weren’t even asked first, and the launch debacle was spammed at people who should now read this story and think hard before supporting any such thing.
UPDATE: The Furry Swap Meet site is taken down. Wacaster’s Twitter for Hot Fudge Husky deleted all activity for the scam, and replaced it with a message that Crowley hacked it (despite coordinated marketing from Wacaster’s other accounts.) REPEAT: MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS.
Here's the "partner event" email and the commission cold call email from a few days ago.
Different emails, both signed by Hot Fudge Husky. pic.twitter.com/s5niwAWwaW
— Ash! (@ashenwhiskers) April 20, 2022
When you know how the Furrymemes scam works, isn’t it funny how the Hot Fudge Husky twitter has 11.5K followers but almost no content? — UPDATE: Hot Fudge Husky is rebranded to Neil Fox. Neil Fox is the result when you search the original account name @furry__memes.
Some previous coverage here about Wacaster erred on the side of being lenient and forgiving. It’s great that cons coordinated official responses this time, making it not just my opinion that this guy needs to stop.
He obviously has impressive skills, along with astonishing lack of limits or respect. Why not build a small business to deliver joy and satisfaction to people instead of trampling them in a rush to dominate a market?
Maybe he’ll read this and dismiss it as an unfair hit piece (or just call it “drama”.) Well… a good time for getting his side and letting him explain could have been after the first disaster. After 10 times, why should we get both sides about an UNCHECKED RAMPAGE OF GREED?
It’s not the job of unpaid volunteers and fans to be the conscience, when someone keeps doing aggressive schemes until they fail and make an ass out of everyone who trusted them.
Meanwhile, Wacaster claims a million dollars in sales and had an ENTIRE PR TEAM response for disasters before. That’s unfair to everyone else in the same market, like little artists competing for notice. It isn’t equal, and I don’t have time to waste on wishy-washy both-sidesing like a nice, polite fence-sitter. Polite and kind aren’t the same thing, and it would be UNKIND to the public to hold back news of all this nonsense and deception.
Anyone who calls this drama or unfair is on the hook to give real answers for why this keeps happening, and when will it stop?
UPDATES: Wacaster’s response connects more background of the Hazbin Hotel Fanworks scams.
Buddy Goodboy’s thread is added (it was overlooked during parallel research), give him a follow. And we have new insight on Neil Wacaster’s response after the scam emerged — Wacaster is backpedaling with claims about “lies” and being “hacked”:
(Personally, I think this is just a backpedaling attempt, but I suppose we shall see)
— Trick | Badge comms open! (@TrickTheHyena) April 22, 2022
To unravel these claims, more info is in a video posted by the Hazbin Hotel Fanworks replacement Youtube channel. If you recall the background above, Hazbin Hotel Fanworks was a partnership between Neil Wacaster and a crypto scammer named Crowley, who took their first channel of 185K followers. The replacement has 6K, and its spin about this requires reading between the lines. UPDATE: The replacement channel, still under Wacaster’s control, took down the team’s explanation. The below summary of the contents was posted when the video was still live and comparable. If anyone claims it isn’t true, ask why the evidence was deleted.
The hour long video reveals about Crowley and Wacaster’s partnership:
- Wacaster was living with Crowley, a sex offender on parole.
- The restrictions of living on parole show WACASTER KNEW HIS PARTNER WAS A CONVICT.
- (5:20) In November 2020, Wacaster started Hazbin Hotel Fanworks out of a “meme furry channel.”
- They were 50/50 partners in the Hazbin “company” (how is this connected to the real property owners? What???)
- They did panels at furry cons together, and hosted house parties that brought some staffers.
How staff were mismanaged:
- Crowley, the sex offender, was head of staff.
- Wacaster promised to pay staff if they started out with free volunteer work.
- Pay promises depended on investing that never came (for a fan channel using other peoples art? What???)
- (9:00) The team treats it as overpromising, rather than a history of scamming by Wacaster.
- As a Plan B, Wacaster hired cheap overseas editors for “cost saving”, who badly communicated with the team.
Things get bad:
- Crowley started his Cryptogod crypto-investing channel that was pushed on their channel.
- Meanwhile, free volunteers were overworked for roles they were never trained for.
- Crowley failed to pay them for weeks and weeks, excusing it because crypto prices fell.
- Volunteers spent all their savings to live while working full-time.
- Wacaster blamed Crowley for failing to pay, like he had no idea at all. (Sure…)
It turns into a crisis:
- Wacaster and Crowley split up, and 40 volunteers had to reorganize into 2 teams.
- (16:25) The 40 volunteers had been pitted against each other to work with “tribal”, “cut-throat competition”.
- Volunteers had been forced to stay up extra late by exhausting motivation meetings to hype up the team.
- Most of the volunteers left with Crowley, while Wacaster made new plans with his Furrymemes channels.
- (20:30) Crowley’s team locked out Wacaster’s, breaking their agreement to share channels.
Fallout from the crisis:
- They discovered employee wage funds had been dishonestly invested in crypto instead.
- This halted video production for Crowley’s channel, and it’s unclear what happened to the team.
- There is talk of legal proceedings and “it’s like a Looney Tune skit.”
- Wacaster is still leading these volunteers while Crowley is blamed.
- (45:45) Crowley is claimed to be Noah E. Akins; his parole meant he wasn’t supposed to talk to minors on social media. Yet Wacaster had him managing!
This shows the volunteers as victims too, but sorry friends… the bottom line is: don’t ever do free work for a “fan” project using someone else’s property, and if the people behind it are both scammers or criminals, do your due diligence first. Hopefully this story can help other people for the future.
EVEN MORE UPDATES, 5/9/22: New scams and insight from Indiana
Claims emerged about Wacaster offering art commissioning as a middleman scheme — Charging full price, while advertising art created at a discounted price by an outsourced artist in a cheaper place — then pocketing the difference without crediting someone else’s art.
I hope this makes sense. This person set up a fancy site I filled out for a commission, then did not pay their artist and ran. I will find a way to pay their artist but please don’t work with this person. pic.twitter.com/bd3xAsnduq
— Splat @FWA+MEGAPLEX (@SplatFennec) April 26, 2022
Not only HotFudgeHusky has been taking art that it's fully mine without my permission, but he is making money getting fake commissions using my work as an example
— Kaya (@KayaUnderTheSun) April 26, 2022
Wacaster’s Neil Fox account is now taking the title “journalist” to retaliate at a group called Italian Furposting for flagging his content. He is threatening them with a misinformation campaign that would use targeted ads to pose him as a victim of anti-journalist censorship. Is anti-spam action now censorship?
Remember the use of threats, it comes up again…
Indiana fans reached out with feedback on this story.
“Extra context: Neil has a disability so he’s unable to work ‘typical’ jobs. He does have legitimate skill as a businessperson. He is good at managing books and finances, and knows a lot about SEO and marketing, and when he’s not fixated on a money making scheme, he’s nice to be around. He hosts local fur meets at his house (“The Fox Den”). People seem to have positive experiences at his meets, and he genuinely seemed to make the meets safe — strict alcohol rules, a clearly denoted time for when NSFW content would be allowed, etc.
The @hotfudgehusky account, @awoo_news, and @furry__memes — these are the same account carried over. At one point, the account did make half-hearted attempts to credit the original post and direct users there for an artist source, but would fail more than half the time. Neil shrugged it off. He also ran a Tiktok account that clipped and edited furry dance videos for reposting. He wouldn’t ask permission before using someone’s content, but believed that was ok because “message me to remove it.” He is rebranding that account. The new tiktok name is @thefurryfandom.co and the new profile pic is his face… not sure what the angle is, but the account has 107k followers and 2.3M likes to leverage the algorithm for whatever it is.
Regarding the “Furry and Proud” crowdfund — He had walls filled in his garage with boxes of t-shirts from this. He couldn’t sell them because the shirts were the property of someone else and involved in an active legal battle (Artworktee), but Artworktee didn’t collect the property from him (?) The full run of shirts were actually produced, just… never shipped for some reason, and Artworktee may not be collecting them or lacks the funds.
Regarding Hazbin Hotel Fanworks — This was the biggest source of ongoing drama in his house and social circles. Crowley’s parole required him to inform people he is living with that he is a convict… unfortunately, Crowley violated his parole by not doing that. No one in the home, Neil included, was aware of his sex offender status until after he had already been living in the house for several months. Prior to this, he was known to have been in prison but refused to talk about why.
Was this Neil’s story? Scammers can play very sympathetic and persuasive, and always play the victim while blaming someone else. Claiming lack of knowledge about Crowley is hard to believe because:
(1) Probation can mean ankle bracelets and the PO knocking at any time to come in.
(2) They can check for devices with someone not allowed around certain devices.
(3) Crowley’s crime was openly published in the news, and that’s hard to hide.
(4) The news reported he “cannot drink any alcohol while on probation, or he will finish the sentence in prison.”
(5) Did Neil act like Crowley moved in without a real name or basic googling to screen a roommate?
It’s all hard to buy, but the source continued…
Around the same time as when news broke about Crowley’s sex offender status, is when the business partnership broke. Neil evicted Crowley from the house over his sex offender status, and his deciding to dump channel funds into an “investment” (crypto scam that he lost out on), and failure to pay bills in the house — according to Neil. He received several not-so-veiled death threats from Crowley, and so Neil kept quiet about everything until Crowley was completely out.
Once Crowley was gone, Neil was happy to leave well enough alone, but it seems Crowley had maintained access and hijacked the channel. The Youtube channel was Neil’s only source of income, so he got a lawyer to get the channel back. Crowley was served legal paperwork, with the deal being that Neil would keep quiet about Crowley’s sex offender status and not notify his parole officer of his violations, as long as the channel was returned to Neil. Crowley decided to take everything to court, and that’s when posts about Crowley’s status as a sex offender started going public. Maybe Neil hoped that social backlash would solve the situation, but it did not, and that legal battle is still ongoing.
This story about threats and staying afraid and quiet because of them is convenient… then Neil using a threat to spread info about Crowley is very shady when you look at other threats to run a targeted ad campaign against Italian Furposting for flagging his content. So he’s afraid, but making threats himself?
The source claimed Neil may start:
- Trying to attach ads to captcha systems (because you can make the internet worse by requiring people to look at an ad to prove they’re human).
- Buying land outside of the city to grow and sell CBD products, and selling camp sites on the land. Neil also wanted to go further and have “Furry” recognized as a religion in the state so he could get a religious exemption to produce THC products also, and sell “religious experiences” to people. Basically, a roundabout way to sell THC in a state where it’s not legal, and leverage the furry fandom to legitimize it.
- Crypto scams. One of Neil’s other partners is shilling dogecoin endlessly to Neil and his social circle.
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Wow, I was doing some research after getting a proposition to advertise on their meme channels and stumbled upon this article. Thanks for saving me from this
And myself as well. Admittedly, I always find it suspicious when someone proposes a “partnership” with me. Too often that’s a weaselword for, “I think you’re a sucker.”
It is a code word for you’re about to get ****ed. :facepalm:
Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe sort of humor.
I wish I had known about neil before I spent a year and a half attending his house parties off and on, and calling him friend. A friend he is no more. And to top it off he is using a piece of art that I commissioned for a badge of my fursona from him back in April to promote his Furry Swap Meet page (without my permission). It wasn’t until shortly after that he started sending me personal telegram messages about his hair-brained thc furry religion farm, and crypto crap, and then the feeds blew up about him and I leaned the truth about him and his uncouth business scam practices
I would rather die than exploit earnest members of the furry fandom for their hard-earned money while pretending I care about the fandom.
You have to update this with the latest stuff Neil has posted.