In mid-2020, T.REX ARMS designed a slick plate carrier. T.REX ARMS chose to work with IB Design, LLC and its owner/operator John Lawton for the initial production of this product. We were told he could quote and manufacture quickly, and references led us to believe all work could and would be done in the USA.
Spec sheets for the AC1 included the requirement that every carrier be Berry Amendment Compliant.
In September 2020, we issued the initial purchase order for the AC1 and made deposits for raw goods; Lawton supplied us with invoices from the mills supplying the materials.
Lawton would invoice as he shipped each batch, and each invoice included a signed “Compliance Certificate” stating that the goods in that shipment were Berry Compliant. Quality was good, though there were bugs and problems in some batches. This was not unexpected, but it did require us to institute an exhaustive QC process to ensure every product our customers received was up to spec. Interestingly, the problems varied a lot from batch to batch (a fact we later deduced was the result of John using at least four or five different facilities to make the products).
On December 7th, 2020, T.REX ARMS launched the AC1 for sale; stock ran out on December 30, 2020.
On January 1st, 2021, based on Lawton’s performance, T.REX ARMS placed Purchase Orders for our 556 Ready Rig and our 556 Shingle.
On January 22nd, 2021, as we were preparing for a re-stock of the AC1, we received a tip from another manufacturer that Lawton might be making some cummerbunds for the AC1 in Mexico. We froze all plans for restocking, notified Lawton of the allegation, and started an investigation into these claims. This consisted of fresh talks with his other customers, as well as other steps such as talking to all Lawton’s material suppliers, etc. John Lawton claimed the tip was a dirty trick to steal business and that there was no truth in the allegations.
On February 24th, 2021, we found actual “Made In Mexico” tags on approximately 20 plate bags in a batch of 4 pallets of carriers. Other carriers had remnants of tags, showing evidence that tags had been present but had been removed. We immediately notified Lawton that he was in material breach of contract and that all POs, invoices, and payments were frozen pending investigation.
Initially, Lawton admitted that a small portion of the carriers was made by a sub-contractor that subbed out to Mexico – but as our investigation went on, we kept encountering discrepancies or untruths, which resulted in more batches being called into question, and we eventually concluded that, while we believed the majority of the carriers were made in the USA, there was no way to prove what was what, and therefore all AC1s were suspect. John Lawton’s statement was, “Probability and Quarantine are not an option, and all of the AC-1 need to be replaced.” With the investigation into the origin of the goods complete, T.REX ARMS felt the need to notify existing AC1 customers as soon as possible that their carriers may not have been made in the USA.
Lawton also confirmed to us that he was the John Lawton named in these links:
FBI — Hedge Fund Manager Sentenced to Almost Six Years for Mail Fraud and Making a False Statement to the SEC
John W. Lawton, Paramount Partners LP, and Crossroad Capital Management, LLC : Lit. Rel. No. 20930 / March 5, 2009
Opinion: John W. Lawton – SEC.gov
On April 1st, 2021, T.REX ARMS announced a refund program for past AC1 buyers and launched the “AC-Uno” for sale.
In subsequent negotiations with Lawton, we learned he had thousands of more items on hand, some of which we had already paid for. On April 1 we did not know this. Our desire and goal became to take possession of goods bearing our design, brand, and logo to ensure that any goods bearing these features that made it to market were not defective and were advertised honestly.
On April 19th, 2021, we learned of an eBay listing by IBDesignproject01 for goods that we had hired John to make and had made a significant deposit and advance payments on.
On April 21st, 2021, T.REX ARMS filed a Federal lawsuit against IB Design, LLC and John Lawton.
On August 6th, 2021, with a settlement agreement having been signed, T.REX ARMS dismissed the suit. Specific details of the settlement must remain confidential, per the terms of the settlement. All disputes were completely resolved and dismissed and all business ties and obligations were dissolved and terminated.
On August 30th, 2021, after completing our QC process, we listed for sale on our site as potentially Mexican-Made:
The AC-Uno, The el Ready Rig-O, The No Hablo Shinglés