Last April, OneZero revealed the CEO of digital surveillance firm Banjo, Inc. was once tied to the KKK and involved in the drive-by shooting of a synagogue. In the aftermath, Banjo’s local and state contracts dried up, and CEO and founder Damien Patton was forced to resign.
But new evidence suggests that in the months following OneZero’s report, Banjo quietly rebranded as safeXai. Patton is still a minority shareholder in the company and an inventor of each of its patents.
Within days of OneZero’s report in April 2020, Utah’s department of public safety suspended a $20.7 million contract with Banjo, and Banjo, in turn, suspended all of its operations in Utah, pending a review by the state auditor. Patton resigned and Justin R. Lindsey, a former chief technology officer with the FBI, took over as CEO.
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Then, on February 1, an independent commission convened by the auditor released recommendations for agencies contracting with “advanced software technology” companies. Among the recommendations: agencies should “limit sharing of sensitive data,” “minimize sensitive data collection and accumulation,” and “validate technology claims.” The Salt Lake Tribune suggested it was “a final blow to Banjo.”
But was it?
Documents reveal that in September, 2020 — five months after OneZero’s report — Banjo filed for a new business license, at the same address with the same suite number as Banjo’s headquarters, but under a different name: safeXai. Damien Patton is listed as a historical registered agent, director, and secretary of safeXai in corporate filings going back to 2010 and cited as an inventor of every safeXai patent. He also remains a minority shareholder in the company, according to safeXai’s chief strategy officer, T.J. Marchetti.
Reached by OneZero, Marchetti emphasized that Patton’s role is limited.