How one of the most notorious alleged hustlers in the history of e-commerce made a fortune on the Web.
If you want to get a sense of Jesse Willms at his absolute peak—the wealth, the lifestyle, the aura of swaggering invincibility—then the weekend of November 12, 2010, is where we want to begin. That Friday afternoon, resplendent in a lustrous violet button-down, Willms packed half a dozen friends into a private plane on a frosty Edmonton, Alberta, tarmac and jetted off to Las Vegas. En route, Willms uncorked a bottle of Dom Pérignon and passed it around so everyone could take a swig. Then came the shooters: for the men, Jack Daniel’s; for the women—three leggy brunettes and a statuesque blonde—Smirnoff with Red Bull. Soon enough, off came Willms’s shirt, as often happened on festive occasions. After landing in Las Vegas, the group piled into a titanic silver limo and made for the Encore, where they checked into an $8,000-a-night, 5,829-square-foot duplex suite—a favorite haunt of Prince Harry. For the next two days, Willms and his entourage danced atop nightclub tables, shopped at Tiffany, went for thrill rides, and caught an Usher concert, all before flying back to Alberta in time for work on Monday morning.