When Jessica Wigsmoen first met Napster cofounder Shawn Fanning at a party at Sean Parker's West Village party house, she didn't think it would end like this. "I lived in New York, I had a really good life," Wigsmoen told me by phone last week. "I met this guy who acted like prince charming." Now, she claims Fanning is denying child support for their 2-year-old daughter, Scarlett. [Update: Valleywag received new information that Fanning has been sending significant, regular payments for Scarlett's care for two years. Full details at the bottom of the post.]
Last week, Wigsmoen launched a public crowdfunding campaign called "Scarlett Fanning survival." It has only raised $235 of the $100,000 goal. On Facebook, two days after sharing the crowdfunding link, Wigsmoen posted what she claimed was a screenshot of her bank account. The balance was less than $134. Yesterday afternoon, both of those Facebook posts were deleted. But the crowdfunding campaign is still active.
Fanning's executive assistant Vita Angiulo is aware that I have been trying to reach Fanning for nine days. Angiulo has not returned requests for comment sent last week regarding Scarlett's paternity or whether Fanning has been delinquent in child support or recent phone calls. However, there are numerous photos of the three of them on both Wigsmoen's and Fanning's Facebook pages, including one in which Fanning describes Wigsmoen and the infant she is holding as "my two loves," as well as photos of them in the delivery room.
On Giveforward, Wigsmoen's plea says she has been unable to receive financial support and that Scarlett has been deserted by Fanning. She does not mention his full name or occupation. It's not clear why:
Scarlett is 2 yrs old..we've been unable to receive monetary support from her father. We need emergency help to afford basic survival means.
After numerous attempts , we've been ignored by her own father who is well aware of our need for monetary support. She is only 2, and our tries have been ignored. She has been completely deserted by her other parent, who she does not even know. She did not have a Christmas as we were unable to afford one. It's come down to us selling the only means of transportation that we have, and now unable to afford diapers, child care, clothing and every other basic need a very intelligent and well loved toddler needs. Please help in any way you can as this is truly an emergency. at this point in time we are even unable to afford legal representation to amend this situation...
These are unexpectedly public and disturbing allegations against a serial entrepreneur and investor, who became a household (or at least a dorm room) name during the rise of Napster, and continues to travel in some of Silicon Valley's wealthiest circles. Snocap, the company he started after Napster, was reportedly sold at a "firesale" price of $5 million in 2008. He then sold Rupture, a social network gaming startup, for $15 million to Electronic Arts the same year. Fanning is also the cofounder of Path and Airtime. According to Crunchbase, he's made at least two startup investments since April and is also an investor in very promising companies like Square and Uber.
On the phone last week, Wigsmoen, who works as a model, sounded exhausted and out of it; her stories meandered. Fanning had not responded directly to her attempts to contact him, she said, even though he was aware of the campaign: "He's not answering, he's lowballing me."
Public records show only one Jessica Wigsmoen in the United States, who has lived at an address on 19th Street in Chelsea, which she mentioned to me on the phone. Criminal records databases also show a spotty history for Wigsmoen from a decade back, including a number of infractions and misdemeanor arrests related to speeding tickets, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, as well as one infraction in 2001 for assault with a deadly weapon. She was arrested for burglary in 2005. It also appears Wigsmoen was recently arrested for a DUI in Las Vegas.
Wigsmoen told me she was introduced to the Napster cofounders through Eric Lerner, an entertainment lawyer, who happens to be a "confidant" of Sean Parker's. During one of her visits to the so-called "Bacchus House," which Parker purchased for $20 million in 2011, Parker introduced her to Fanning. According to Wigsmoen, Fanning asked, "'So what do you think of me?'"
Wigsmoen thought he was "kind of a douche," and told him so, she told Valleywag. Soon after Wigsmoen says she got a call from Fanning saying, "'You know what? Thank you, nobody has ever talked to me like that before.'" She's not the first model Fanning has dated. In 2008, he was linked with Playboy model and professional poker player Jennifer "Jennicide" Leigh.
When I asked Wigsmoen if there was any way that Fanning—who was infamously screwed out the Napster deal by his uncle John Fanning—wasn't paying child support because he lacked the funds to do so, she said no. "Parker gave him an $8 million check not that long ago, a year ago," perhaps related to Airtime, she explained, adding, "I know that didn't do well." According to Wigsmoen, Fanning receives $800,000 each month, although there was "a scam" with one of the companies he invested in.
Wigsmoen described Fanning's relationship with Parker as "frenemies." "I'm like, 'Can't you ask Parker for a loan?' I knew that would piss him off," she told me.
Wigsmoen claims she has drained the money she saved from modeling gigs to support herself and Scarlett: "I spent $50,000 that I made before I met this loser and that's all gone."
The last I heard from Wigsmoen was via text on Sunday. She told me she had been hospitalized for nearly two days from exhaustion, dehydration, and stress, and that she had a seizure. "Didn't know it was possible," she wrote, "but if Shawn doesn't pay child support soon not sure what ill do." We were supposed to speak again Monday, but I have not been able to reach her despite numerous attempts.
This is not the first time Wigsmoen has alleged that lack of child support has left her and her child stranded. The screenshot below is from June, 25, 2013, although it was later deleted.
During our phone conversation, Wigsmoen made a number of allegations not just about child support, but also about alleged drug use that Valleywag has not been able to verify. "I'm beyond tired of covering for him," she texted me later. On the phone, Wigsmoen said she permitted his playboy lifestyle, until she was worried for Scarlett's safety. Sean Parker, Fanning's two-time cofounder, was arrested for felony possession of cocaine in 2005. The book All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning's Napster mentions him taking ecstasy on one occasion and smoking marijuana, but the book describes it as very casual use many years back.
According to Wigsmoen, Fanning's contact with his daughter has been very sporadic. He flew them out to Los Angeles, but didn't stop by to see his daughter until the fourth day of his visit, half an hour before they had to leave for their flight. "He's never sent her one gift, not even for her birthday," she said. On one occasion, Wigsmoen said Fanning's assistant booked her and her daughter a room at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, but didn't tell her the incidentals were not being paid for—so she was stuck with a massive bill. "He's not interested in getting things itemized," she said.
Wigsmoen said she was still trying to contact Fanning, who was "pissed off" and threatened to sue her. "I'm tired of the no response and asking people for money. That doesn't feel good."
In May, Fanning sold his penthouse at The Infinity in San Francisco for $3 million. Last year Downloaded, a documentary about Napster featuring both Fanning and Parker, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. According to Facebook, Fanning is currently in a relationship with Jeni Ivey, a self-employed Singer /Composer/Musician/Songwriter.
Update: Since publishing this post, Valleywag has been able to verify that Shawn Fanning has sent significant payments to provide for Scarlett's support to a bank account owned by Jessica Wigsmoen. Payments were sent regularly over the past two years, with the most recent payment sent last week.
A representative for California's Department of Child Support Services—Fanning resides in California—said that child support amounts are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on each parents' income and the amount of time spent with the child.
But, as far as we know, the matter has not yet been brought to court.
On Friday, Give Forward took down the campaign set up by Wigsmoen. In a statement to Valleywag, the crowdfunding site said it "did not fall within the guidelines of our Terms of Service," but did not specify which guideline had been violated.
Wigsmoen got back in contact with Valleywag last Wednesday. We have reached out to her for comment about this new information.
To contact the author of this post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.