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Con Artist Makes $4 Million Selling Fake In-N-Out Franchises in the Middle East

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The burger chain does not have franchises.


A California man is accused of selling bogus In-N-Out Burger franchises to investors in the Middle East, and making millions in the process. According to the Los Angeles Times, 55-year-old Craig Stevens allegedly reached out to investors via email in 2014 offering to sell them franchises of the famed burger restaurant for a mere $150,000 per location. Royalties would only be an additional $250,000 per year.

Considering that start-up costs of opening a franchise are often millions of dollars, a deal like that should have sounded too good to be true — because it was. The Week writes that In-N-Out Burger, which was founded in 1948, has "always been privately owned." The chain has no franchise or partnership agreements with third parties. Through his animal-style franchising scheme, Stevens managed to collect $4.27 million.

Prosecutors say that the real trouble started when Stevens committed wire fraud last June. He supposedly sent a counterfeit In-N-Out licensing agreement to an investor in Lebanon over email. Stevens pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently free to go eat Double Doubles after paying a $10,000 bond.