The story of how over 50 employees were tricked into working for a fake design agency during the pandemic has been told in a jaw-dropping new documentary.
BBC Three’s Jobfished, which airs tonight at 9pm, sees journalist Catrin Nye investigate how dozens were hired by MadBird, a made-up company fronted by self-proclaimed ‘influencer’ Ali Ayad.
The pretend company would hire employees on an unpaid probation period, where they would only receive commissions on sales before receiving a fixed salary after six months.
But before anyone could be paid, the company was exposed after all employees received a mysterious email from ‘Jane Smith’, claiming they had all victims of a massive scam.
In the documentary, graphic designer Chris Doocey, 27, from Cornwall, claimed he wracked up £10,000 of debt after working for the company for months for free.
BBC Three’s Jobfished, which airs tonight at 9pm, sees journalist Catrin Nye investigate how dozens were hired by MadBird, a made-up company fronted by self-proclaimed ‘influencer’ Ali Ayad (pictured)
It revealed that one of the company founders, Dave Stanfield, had been fabricated using a stolen image and that the content on their website was stolen from other companies.
Catrin later discovered that other high-ranking members of the company had also been made up, with profiles using stock images sourced from the internet or social media pictures of real people.
She found that Mr Ayad, a Lebanese entrepreneur based in London who had hoards of followers on social media and had faked an appearance in GQ magazine, was the mastermind behind the scam.
Ali said he had previously worked at a Canadian company Sid Lee and US-based design agency Saco, both of which denied he ever worked there, and found he had faked his degree.
Chris Doocey, 27, from Cornwall, claimed he wracked up £10,000 of debt after working for the company for months for free
Meanwhile graphic designer Chris explained how he lost his job on the sales team of a Manchester-based company in March 2020.
After rigorously applying for new roles, he bagged an interview at MadBird.
‘Each time you drop out of a process of a job application you lose a bit of hope each time’, he explained.
He spoke with an Eastern European woman called Simona before chatting with Ayad, who he said was hugely invested in ‘hustle culture’.
While the company never asked him for money, he spent months working for free while paying his bills and mortgage – claiming he racked up debts of around £10,000.
‘To have gone months without pay working at MadBird, still paying off mortgage, paying off loans, it leaves you in this deep hole’, he said.
Gemma Brett, 27, a graphic designer from west London had been working in the graphic design industry ever since leaving university, and described Mr Ayad as ‘handsome’ and charming.
‘He very much had Tom Cruise energy’, she said. ‘If Elon Musk works 15 hours a day, he’s gonna work 16 hours a day. He talked about Steve Jobs, he spoke about wanting to build the next Apple.’
Gemma explained how one of the ‘most hard hitting moments’ was discovering one of the employees named ‘Nigel White’ did not exist and that his company profile picture was a stock image from Getty.
Meanwhile Gemma Brett, 27, described how the conman ‘very much had Tom Cruise energy’ and spoke about ‘wanting to build the next Apple’
Jordan Carter , 26, from Suffolk, gave up a paid position for a commission based job at MadBird, where he worked for six months contacting an estimated 10,000 people around the world
‘It was such a brutal moment’, she said. ‘He had seemed to be a colleague I could connect with and I was looking forward to being friends with.
‘I was basically catfished by someone pretending to be him which made it all seem quite sinister’.
Jordan Carter , 26, from Suffolk, gave up a paid position for a commission based job at MadBird, where he worked for six months contacting an estimated 10,000 people around the world.
‘It was tough to be honest’, he said. ‘I wanted to apologise to everyone in LinkedIn I spoke to about something that isn’t even real, trying to get money out of them.
‘in my head I was like I’ve wasted six months where minimum wage would have got me £8,000 and I have nothing’.
Stephie Nkoy-Nyama, from east London, also quit a good job to join MadBird’s sales team and spoke of her anger after realising the company was fake.
‘The email had pdf evidence of how MadBird is fake, how they never worked with Samsung or Facebook or anything, just everything was fake.
She said: ‘When I saw that I just thought am I a d***head. I’ve been here for two months working my a** off not getting paid, recruiting people to a fake company’.
The documentary also saw the journalist confront Mr Ayad, who had agreed to a sit down interview with the BBC but pulled out the day before, outside his west London home.
Caitrin asked him: ‘Why did you make up a fake company and take advantage of people when they were at their most desperate?’
The documentary sees the journalist confront Mr Ayad, who had agreed to a sit down interview with the BBC but pulled out the day before, outside his west London home
After Catrin pointed out that it was a fake company which had used a pretend co-founder and stolen examples of work, he argued by saying it was ‘not a fake company’
Mr Ayad was reluctant to speak with the journalist, eventually insisting: ‘This is your version of the story, you don’t know everything behind the story.
‘You need to see two sides of the story there’s always a different side to the story.’
‘Do you know how badly you effected people with what you did?’ asked Catrin, to which he replied: ‘All I know is we created opportunity for people to work in the middle of Covid’.
After Catrin pointed out that it was a fake company which had used a pretend co-founder and stolen examples of work, he argued back by saying: ‘It’s not a fake company. What is a company, what is a fake company?’
‘Will you say sorry for the fact that you lied?’, she asked. ‘Will you say sorry for the lies and time you wasted?’
‘How do you know I did?’, he said. ‘This is what you do in the news, you point the finger at people.
‘If I hurt people of course I’m sorry but there’s another version of the story.’
After filming, the BBC reached out to Mr Ayad once again, who conceded that a ‘couple of points’ he was being accused of were true – but claimed the ‘majority’ of points raised against him were ‘absurd and incorrect’.
Jobfished airs this evening on BBC Three at 9pm