Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has a new gig, and it involves endorsing a smartphone from the family of late Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. But while Lewandowski calls the mysterious phone bearing the murderous cartel boss’ name to be “absolutely incredible,” disappointed gadget-lovers say it’s all a scam.
In one recent video recorded through Cameo, a website where fans can order recorded messages from B-list celebrities, Lewandowski addresses Pablo Escobar’s brother Roberto, and gushes over the new smartphone product he and Escobar Inc. CEO Olof Gustafsson are reportedly launching: the Escobar Fold 2.
“I’ve seen the new Escobar Fold 2 phone, and it’s absolutely incredible,” Lewandowski said. “So this is just a quick big shoutout to you guys that did all the work behind that. And I wish you the very best, and all the success in the world. Don’t forget: Vote Donald Trump, November 2020!”
For the testimonial, Lewandowski charged a mere $55. But it still is likely to raise questions about the wisdom of his career choices he’s made since departing as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. That’s because it’s unclear if the phone he’s hawking actually exists.
The Escobar Fold 2 is the latest product being pushed by Roberto Escobar, who has reinvented himself over the past three years as an attention-seeking peripheral tech internet character, threatening to sue billionaire inventor Elon Musk for allegedly stealing his idea for a flamethrower and demanding $1 billion from Netflix over its show based on his brother’s life. It was in December that Escobar first claimed that he’d developed a revolutionary foldable smartphone that would sell for a thousand dollars less than its competition, which can go for roughly $1,300.
“I have told many people that I would beat Apple and I will,” Escobar declared in an interview.
That phone was called the Escobar Fold 1 and it appeared to be a rebranding of the Royole FlexPai, a $1,300 foldable phone, only with a steep discount and Pablo Escobar’s initials stamped in gold on the back. Would-be buyers of the Escobar Fold 1, however, have been fuming online, saying they never received the phones they ordered.
In a Reddit forum devoted to their complaints, buyers gripe about Escobar and his company, Escobar Inc., claiming Escobar took the $349 they paid for each phone while blowing through a January 2020 delivery date.
Several buyers who were told their phone packages from Escobar were in the mail, meanwhile, instead received a book by Roberto Escobar with the lengthy title, “I Made Billions Selling Coke, Now My Smartphones Will Destroy Apple and Samsung.”
The package came with a promise to upgrade them to another phone of unclear provenance. That phone has been dubbed the “Escobar Fold 2.” And on Monday, PCMag asked whether Escobar was “scamming” his customers by promising it. Escobar’s company has also reportedly been banned from the Consumer Electronics Show, a major tech trade show.
Lewandowski didn’t respond to a request for comment. But in an interview, Gustafsson told The Daily Beast that he expects the Cameo endorsement to boost his company’s credibility.
“Let’s put it this way: Corey Lewandowski made Donald Trump president of the United States,” Gustafsson said. “So yeah, I think it would help anybody to have an endorsement from him.”
Lewandowski’s video is notable in part because it’s one of the few videos about the Escobar Fold that doesn’t feature scantily clad women. Nearly all of Escobar Inc.’s videos feature models in lingerie dancing with the phone, while almost never showing the phone’s screen to the camera.
While Gustafsson claims to have sold 50,000 phones, independent videos of the devices, which have garnered a significant amount of attention from tech blogs and on YouTube, are almost impossible to find. On Wednesday, one tech blogger did post an unboxing video of one of the phones.
Asked about customer concerns that the vast majority of Escobar Fold buyers will never receive the product, Gustafsson instead launched into a confusing series of questions about various ailments, urging The Daily Beast to enter “back pain” and “headache” into a search engine.
“Google ‘headache,’” Gustafsson said. “Anything is possible, right? You might have cancer, you might have a brain tumor. The internet is full of haters, right?”
Gustafsson claimed that critics doubting whether they’ll receive their phones are secretly working for major tech companies that view Roberto Escobar as a dangerous new rival.
“It’s all bullshit, I don’t trust anything whatsoever that I see online,” Gustafsson said.
Gustafsson claims it’s hard to find videos of the phone because it’s popular in Mexico and China, suggesting that it is because the company doesn’t “care about any law enforcement.” Asked whether he was implying the phone is for criminals, Gustafsson demurred.
“Let’s put it this way, it’s marketed by criminals—a former criminal,” Gustaffson said.
Los Angeles artist Heather Carter bought an Escobar Fold 1 in December, thinking it was “pretty cool.” Months later, though, she’s still waiting on her phone and doubts it will ever arrive.
“For them to just blatantly take people’s money—people are not used to that,” Carter said.
Lewandowski isn’t the only Cameo celebrity putting his name behind Escobar. The Escobar Fold has also earned endorsements from singer Paul Anka’s ex-wife (Cameo rate: $35) and Chris Hansen, the former pedophile-hunting star of NBC’s To Catch a Predator (Cameo rate: $50).
“I’ve seen this amazing new smartphone called the Escobar Fold 2,” Hansen said in his video. “It appears to be the best phone out right now.”
Hansen then launches into the To Catch a Predator catchphrase he once reserved for suspected chatroom pedophiles, urging viewers to “have a seat” and check out the Escobar Fold.