Yesterday what at first seemed like an interesting story caught our attention, “Medical Marijuana Companies Snap Up Trucking Rate Firm.” The 154-word article contained no byline or “disclosed terms.” The article did, however, source a quote from an enigmatic press release dated November 7, 2018, nearly three weeks before the clickbait-worthy article went out.
Funny enough, the strangeness has nothing to do with the marijuana piece of the puzzle. The long and short of it is that two companies, RushNet Inc. and XYZ Hemp Inc., said they have acquired GreatRateFreight Inc., “a company that specializes in using technology to link shippers with trucking companies.”
At first, we thought it a little strange that two companies (claiming no relationship, but later found contradictory claims on the matter on Investorshub) would “snap up” an unknown broker (at least we assumed it was a broker until we found out it was a load board). But even if upon first glance those aspects could be overlooked, the claim of 7 million truck drivers really caught our eye.
Using Department of Labor data, we’ve long reported estimates that there are 3.5 million drivers who would be considered truck drivers. Of those, about 1.7 million would be considered heavy and tractor-trailer drivers. But that includes drivers like cement truck or dump truck drivers, and they aren't part of the “driver shortage.” The Department of Labor lists 864,000 drivers as "for-hire trucking heavy and tractor trailer drivers." But that does not consist solely of over-the-road drivers. That number is more like 500,000.
If the PR release didn’t take itself so seriously—and if it wasn’t so clearly a pump and dump scam—it almost reads like a piece straight from the Onion. The final statement, for instance, says, “Both RSHN (RushNet) and GRPS (XYZ Hemp) look forward to providing further updates, including at least one celebrity endorsement.”
Really? A press release that’s telling us that they look forward to telling us about their future celebrity? Who will it be? Inquiring minds want to know. Woody Harrelson? Jeff Bridges? No, I have it. Elon Musk and/or Joe Rogan. They could go on the Joe Rogan show and endorse away.
But wait. Chuck Balandrin, GreatRateFreight’s CEO, has something better up his sleeve. According to the press release, he explains: “I am being interviewed next week, on WGN radio, AM720, to discuss this ambitious endeavor, as part of a program entitled ‘On the Road with Dane Neil’. The schedule for airing of that interview will be disclosed very shortly, by twitter release.”
“This has several red flags of a pump and dump scheme,” says CFA and former trader, Daniel Pickett. “Neither of these companies has audited financials available in the SEC's EDGAR system. The release contains wildly inaccurate estimates around the number of truck drivers, and a sales estimate for the acquisition target that is more than 10x the market cap of the combined acquirers.”
There are a number of contacts and attributed names who make statements in the press release, and there are also several emails. We reached out to each. One of them doesn’t exist: RushNets@socialstartsnow.com. It didn’t make sense that a PR company (Social Starts Now) would use an email with the name of one a client for an email, but we tried anyway.
So far, there have been zero responses to our requests for more information from RushNet, XYZ Hemp, or GreatRateFreight.
For his part, “CEO Chuck Balandrin” exists on LinkedIn to the tune of claiming to be “Operations Manager at Patriot Driven Inc.” He has six connections. According to inspection records and business filings, Patriot Driven Inc. has one total truck and one total driver. Another source (UShip) shows it has four trucks and two drivers. Essentially this is Balandrin managing himself and a truck or two.
Yet check out his big time stats. Lots of zeros.
“We are poised to increase participating member truckers’ gross income by at least 20% and to facilitate savings on trucker related incidentals by approximately 15%,” according to Mr. Balandrin. GRF receives a 20% brokerage fee. For every 50,000 members, based on the 20% revenue assumption and 20% brokerage fee, GRF forecasts annual gross revenue exceeding $60,000,000, with profits exceeding $30,000,000 annually. In addition, for every 50,0000 members, annual membership fees are expected to exceed $4 million. [The lack of quotation marks is direct from the press release.]
CEO of RushNet, Frank DeAngelo (also spelled D’Angelo and Deangleo in related press releases) can't be found on LinkedIn. According to a July 20 press release, “Mr. Deangelo is the retired President and CEO of Applejam, Inc. which was one of the world’s largest restaurant franchises which he grew to having over $120,000,000 in sales with over 2500 employees before selling it.”
There are three contacts at the bottom of the press release, all affiliated with three websites. In order the websites are: www.RushNetInc.com, GreatRateFreight.com, www.XYZHemp.com.
“Mr. Balandrin continued, ‘GRF’s unique platform is designed to significantly enhance profits and opportunities for both truck drivers and shippers alike. To accomplish this, it is also developing an easy to use app called 'The Truck Stop’ for the use of truckers and their clients. GRF will soon roll out its membership program for independent truckers which is designed to create significant for RushNet, XYZ Hemp, and GRF while providing significant benefits, including discounts and profit enhancements for truck drivers.’"
There are really too many holes to poke here. It’s a tangled web, you might say, a cluster. Like the lack of creativity. Their forthcoming app being called “The Truck Stop,” as a case in point. Well, either they’re ripping off our friends at Truckstop.com, one of the leading load boards in the industry—or they’re just flat out of ideas.
“At times, we may find it necessary to use personally identifiable information as a means to keep you informed of other possible products and/or services that may be available to you from .” Literally, yes, that’s how the sentence ends.
But wait, there’s more:
“GreatRateFreight Inc. may feel it necessary, from time to time, to make contact with you on behalf of other external business partners with regards to a potential new offer which may be of interest to you. If you consent or show interest in presented offers, then, at that time, specific identifiable information, such as name, email address and/or telephone number, may be shared with the third party. GreatRateFreight Inc. may deem it necessary to follow websites and/or pages that our users may frequent in an effort to gleam what types of services and/or products may be the most popular to customers or the general public.”
Ah, but rest assured future GreatRateFreight users and/or website visitors:
“All users and/or visitors to our website have the option to discontinue receiving communication from us and/or reserve the right to discontinue receiving communications by way of email or newsletters. To discontinue or unsubscribe to our website please send an email that you wish to unsubscribe to email@example.com. If you wish to unsubscribe or opt-out from any third party websites, you must go to that specific website to unsubscribe and/or opt-out.”
Yep, Chuck Dispatch at Yahoo.com will take care of your GreatFreightRate unsubscribe request.
According to some of the commentary on Investorshub, “GRPS shareholders better be careful because the only way GRPS is going to sell stock at $1.42/share through their not really an IPO Reg A filing is if they reverse split GRPS and bring the price up to over $1.42/share. XYZ Hemp Inc., formerly Gold River Productions, Inc. (“GRPS”), is preparing a Tier 2 Regulation A filing for its IPO. This should be filed with the SEC, along with audited financial statements, within the next 60 to 75 days.”
The information on the XYZ Hemp Inc website seems more geared towards pumping the stock prices of GRPS, RSHN, and ENTI than about putting out accurate information to the public. We wish the same could be said from all parties disseminating this information.