Warning: Do not send this person money.
If you have also been defrauded by Steven Gauntley please report it to ActionFraud. It may help to reference my case reference number: NFRC130800331313.
Steven Charles Gauntley (firstname.lastname@example.org) born 1979 of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England, operates a Blogspot called “Retro Heart” on which he displays and accepts orders for miniature scale models of retro arcade machine cabinets that he (allegedly) manufactures. He has a well documented history of failing to fulfill orders, then not issuing refunds for months at a time.
(You can Google the site – I don’t want to provide an additional inbound link to it. Please note that Mr. Gauntley is not involved with the Etsy store also named “Retro Heart”.)
He continues to be active on eBay with these items under several accounts, including “miniature_arcade”. He also has used various eBay resellers to promote his wares to hide his identity. If you are buying arcade miniatures from eBay, ask the seller if they are working with Steven Gauntley, and do not buy if they are.
Previously, he was an organizer and promoter in the UK professional wrestling community, and has a lengthy history of ripping people off, which is widely documented on the internet. More on that below.
I placed a USD $300 (GBP £200) order with Mr. Gauntley on May 1, 2013 for 20 of his scale model arcade miniatures. To this day, I have neither the models nor all of my money back.
In what should have been an obvious and immediate red flag for me in retrospect, Mr. Gauntley asked me to send my payment not directly to him, but to a third party named Ben Auld.
In spite of my better instincts, I sent him the money. (PayPal Transaction ID 5BP58201DD249253H)
Timeline of events
Upon confirming that Mr. Auld had received my payment, Mr. Gauntley said he would begin production of my items and they would ship in about a week.
May 3, 2013: “received with sincere thanks. i’ll get to work on this for you, hoping to ship by thursday-ish next week”
After a week passed, I checked in again, and he said they would be shipping soon.
May 17, 2013: “Hi buddy, this is all complete and ready to ship today. got a tiny bit behind last week, had some troubles, with my wifes mother passing away, but im back on it now, and will be shipping these 20 pieces to you today”
More time passed. I asked if Mr. Gauntley had a tracking number for the package.
May 28, 2013: “sorry for delay in reply, im away at a wedding in the scottish highlands. i have tracking number back at my workshop, but i dont get home until thursday. will be back in touch then, but i think it will probably be with you by then”
More weeks passed. I kept checking in, and eventually Mr. Gauntley claimed the package had been returned to him because he had addressed it incorrectly. If this is even true, it was his mistake, as I have confirmed the address I supplied him was correct.
June 18, 2013: “Arghhh, i just had your order delivered to *me* !!! there is a yellow sticket on it, saying ” address unknown ” , which i have never encountered before. some issue with the address i took down from you , very sorry about that. can you confirm the address and we can look at couriers to get it back out to you ?”
After some more back and forth, we confirmed the address, and he agreed to try sending it again by registered AirMail.
June 25, 2013: “sorry for delay in my reply. ok cool sure thing ill send it registered airmail. no worries, we can split the cost, and just let me know when it gets there. good plan ?”
I was already highly suspicious at this point, so I didn’t provide any additional money for the second shipment.
By July 9, 2013, nothing had arrived. I emailed Mr. Gauntley again and got no response.
On July 16, 2013, I sent another email and, convinced I was being scammed at this point, decided to CC Ben Auld as well. Since Mr. Auld controls the PayPal address I sent the money to, it would be trivial for him to refund it.
Mr. Auld responded:
July 16, 2013: “I’m afraid that Steven [Gauntley] has also ripped me off, Basically he owed my a load of money and used your funds to pay me half of what he owed me. He then failed to pay me the other half and much like yourself he is now not responding to any emails I send him.”
Mr. Auld ultimately refused to return my money.
Around July 16, I began pursuing claims with both PayPal and my bank, but so far, neither have been able to help me get my money back. PayPal will not pursue the claim as the transaction is more than 45 days old. They encouraged me to try to work with the seller, which is of course how the transaction came to be more than 45 days old in the first place. I have pushed back several times and so far they refuse to escalate the issue.
My bank responded more or less the same way.
I pressed for information about the alleged second shipment:
July 16, 2013: “Im very sorry you didnt get the order on a second shipment. I will investigate what happened tomorrow.”
Mr. Gauntley has never actually provided an explanation of any sort as to what happened to the second shipment, and claims he does not have any tracking information, despite allegedly sending it by “registered AirMail”.
I continue to email Mr. Gauntley on an almost daily basis. When he does respond, he does so in a bizarrely contrite fashion where he assures me he did not mean for this to happen and that he will absolutely set it right.
July 16, 2013: “and please let me say that i did not deliberately set out to defraud you, as you said. im sure there is a resonable explanation for what has occured, and now im aware of it, i am obviously sorting it”
As for the alleged second shipment:
July 20, 2013: “Im afraid i cant find the tracking number. I am happy to refund the order, and also next week i will try to locate the package, and if after you have been refunded i can get to the package to you, would that be ok too ?”
When nothing happened for another week, I emailed again.
July 29, 2013: “Im terribly sorry. I thought you had been refunded by Pay Pal from the case. It is no excuse but i have been really ill recently.”
Mr. Gauntley tells me he “is unable” to get a PayPal account of his own, without providing further explanation:
July 30, 2013: “I absolutely will take care of this, i assure you. I am unable to sign up for a Pay pal account . I already tried that. I also do not have a credit card. I have a debit card, if you are able to accept debit card payments ?”
I said I would accept a debit card number, which I could possibly use to charge back my money. The debit card information was not provided to me until October (see below).
In August, a mysterious friend with a PayPal account showed up.
August 5, 2013: “a friend has stepped in and offered to send you some funds from his pay pal. i am going to contact him again now to sort. i think i could send you £100 GBP tomorrow. what is the grand total owed on this order please ?”
I confirmed with this PayPal user they were aware this money was being refunded to me, and were not anticipating a product delivery from Mr. Gauntley. The PayPal user made two partial refunds to me over the span of a couple of weeks.
September 19: “hey, im very sorry. having troubles here. i will get something and a bit extra to you this week”
As of September 24, I received another £25 payment, leaving £125 owed.
In October, Mr. Gauntley’s friend with a PayPal account disappeared.
October 2: “im struggling this week Steven. My friend has gone into his overdraft so cant load into his paypal. Im just trying to find another friend who i can give the funds to so they can send to you.”
A couple of weeks later, Mr. Gauntley was able to obtain a pre-paid Visa card, and allowed me to charge £50 to it on October 22 as another partial refund, leaving a balance of £75.
More time passed. I asked when the rest was coming. He did not reply until I sent a second email.
November 2: “very sorry i did not reply to your message the other day. I have not been online. Yes I will juggle some stuff around and put some funds in place onto the card you billed last week , if thats ok ?”
November 12: ” sorry mate , trying to sort it here. Ill hopefully have another set of money loaded onto that card later today for you to bill”
After several more emails, I got a reponse on December 10 that he now has access to another PayPal account. No further money has arrived so far.
I received no reply from December 10 to February 11, 2014, even though I email him weekly.
February 11: “Very sorry… how much is owed please? I will work something out this week.”
Another promise with no action:
February 15: “I had a pay pal but pay pal closed it within a week. I will put something onto a card and send you the info next week”
And another (the amount owed is incorrect):
April 16: “i didnt forget this … is your pp account the same as your e mail addy ? and is ti £50 still owed ?”
As of August 20, 2014 (more than a full year since the order), a balance of £75 is still owed to me.
I have not had any contact from Mr. Gauntley since May 3, 2014, when he told me he was “awaiting a payment” which would enable him to refund me.
Steven Gauntley’s reputation
I found the following comments on a blog post about Retro Heart, by others who were ripped off by Steven Gauntley:
This blog post no longer exists, as I have been slowly working on getting all inbound links to Retro Heart removed.
Other Steven Gauntley scams
As I began to do research I admittedly should have done before money changed hands, it became quickly apparent that Mr. Gauntley has a history of failing to handle money properly. He seems to be the same person who founded a wrestling league in England called One Pro Wrestling (aka “1PW”) that subsequently went into liquidation, taking a lot of people’s money with it.
A wrestler named Steve Corino who has apparently also been ripped off by Mr. Gauntley now refuses to work with new clients unless a 50% deposit is provided up front. He writes:
“Due to England promoters TOM RUSSON and STEVEN GAUNTLEY, I will require a 50% deposit for all promotions that I have not worked for in the past. NO EXCEPTIONS. Deposits are due within 72 hours of the booking being agreed upon. If there is no deposit sent than the date will be filled.”
Here is another thread about Mr. Corino’s experience with Mr. Gauntley:
“He [Corino] mentions wrestlemag and how the 1PW fans hate it but the guys there do great investigative reporting. He then comments that Gauntley is ‘an awful human being.'”
Here is an interview with Mr. Gauntley followed by more commentary on Steven Gauntley’s failure to pay people during his tenure as a wrestling promoter.
“Mr. Gauntley has a sad and storied history of blaming others for his mistakes and fabricating less than factual statements about people in order to make himself appear less villainous by comparison. His comments about myself and Mr. Corino come off as the petulant ravings of a self-absorbed man-child who has made an effort to distance himself from reality by rewriting and reinterpreting history.”
Mr. Gauntley also operated a business called “1 UP Games” and/or “Pixel Nation Publishing” with a man named Keith Lutener, which appears to have been affiliated with 1PW in some way and may now be defunct also. Attempts to contact Mr. Lutener to corroborate information about Mr. Gauntley have been unsuccessful.
Here is a Google cached page from a 2007 MySpace posting by “ukwrestlingnews”. Among other things, it states:
“Multimedia Group, a small independent DVD manufacturing company also based in Doncaster, told WrestleMag.com today of how they are considering legal action against 1PW promoter Steven Gauntley after 1PW racked up debts of close to £10,000 between May and August 2006.”
There has even been a book written about Mr. Gauntley’s “most controversial wrestling company”
“In more than one instance, Mr. Gauntley’s newly-made adversaries resorted to bringing legal action against him and the promotion in order to settle differences and recoup funds.”
1PW’s web address now points to a Japanese blog.
Mr. Gauntley’s arcade miniatures are also sold through various eBay stores. miniature_arcade and terrih5 are among the user names I’ve seen used. These may be resellers, not Gauntley himself. Here is some of the feedback from those auctions:
That the item was “lost in the post” certainly sounds familiar. And the descriptions of “low quality” items echo those of the comments in the blog post referenced above. At least some of these people were able to get refunds.
The strangest thing about this, however, is that the mythical miniatures appear to actually exist in some form, somewhere. Why Mr. Gauntley will neither send me my order or a refund is a complete mystery to me.
I’ve heard from some of his eBay resellers that he is delinquent in paying his eBay fees, and his customers regularly describe shoddy quality on the occasions they do receive product.
What I want
I would have simply accepted the items I ordered in as-described condition. At this point I just want a refund of the money I paid. I will very happily accept a refund of the balance owed from either Mr. Gauntley or Mr. Auld and consider this problem closed.
As soon as the matter is resolved, I will update this page accordingly.
Addresses and contact
He has previously used the email address email@example.com, but the firstname.lastname@example.org address appears to be more current, and is where all my correspondence with him has been sent.
If you have any other information that would be useful to me in getting my money back, or preventing Steven Gauntley from stealing anyone else’s money, please contact me.
If you are able to help me pursue legal action against Mr. Gauntley in the UK, please also get in touch. I am happy to provide any and all of our email correspondence to end this scam.
I will update this page as new information becomes available.