From Locked Up to Locked In: Ian Bick’s Journey Back to the Top

Ian Bick was the business prodigy of Danbury, Connecticut. By nineteen, he was profiting upwards of ten to twenty thousand dollars a night, running a local nightclub and booking the biggest names in EDM. Everyone from the Chainsmokers to Steve Aoki was in Ian’s reach. But that all came crashing down in 2015 when the FBI showed up at his house and took him to jail.

At twenty-one, Ian became a convicted criminal and spent three years in federal prison. Wire fraud, money laundering, and one count of making a false statement. He became known as a Ponzi scheme mastermind. The kid who defrauded investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cocky scam artist whose punishment fit the crime.

But the headlines and public slandering only tell one part of Ian’s story. Beyond the courtroom and jail cell, there lies a narrative of self-discovery and redemption.

From an early age, Ian was business-minded, “I grew up as an ambitious, young entrepreneurial kid. I was the kid with the lemonade stand; I sold candy in [middle school]…I always worked for what I wanted.” Lemonade stands and selling candy turned into throwing Project X parties at his parents’ house, organizing his school’s most successful homecoming dance, forming an LLC at the age of 16, and hosting teen club nights at Tuxedo Junction.

Tuxedo Junction was Ian’s first taste of the professional event-hosting industry. In just a few months, he was selling out events and generating a sizable profit, “I’m doing, you know, a thousand to two thousand kids once a month, making a $10,000 cash profit a night.”  

Ian decided to take his events to the next level and teamed up with a group of promoters–other teenagers–to raise money to host a string of concerts featuring some of the biggest names of the time. They got the money and booked the talent, but a mixture of mismanagement and teenage naivety resulted in the first show losing thousands of dollars despite the outward appearance of a successful event.

“In that moment, I’m like, well, I can either tell my friends the truth, but they’re going to think maybe I’m trying to scam them because the show made money, and I don’t want to share that with them, or I could say it still made money because that’s what I was telling them the whole time–they’ll still like me, and I’ll just make it up on the next few shows.”

Well, the next show bombed, and so did each one after that.

Ian owed tens of thousands of dollars to his investors in addition to an imaginary profit that never existed. That led to a series of desperate decisions, including taking money from shady figures to pay off debts, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to start selling electronics that ended up being fake, and then repurposing that money into hosting concerts that tanked–the financial blow that resulted in his ultimate demise.

At the surface, Ian appeared to be scheming and purposely mismanaging investors’ money to line his own pockets when, in fact, he was a teenager trying to clean up an insurmountable mess, “I never had any ill intent. Like all my decisions were never based on defrauding someone. It was never ‘let me take money from my friend so I can buy a car or put my friends or kids through school’ or anything like that. All of my lies and actions were only in order–I’m not trying to say that it was right–I’m just saying that in my mindset, it was just to stall so that I can make it right, and all that did was make it worse in the long term.”

In 2014, Ian reopened Tuxedo Junction while the FBI and IRS were breathing down his neck. The goal was to create the biggest EDM venue in the area, and he succeeded, booking acts like the Chainsmokers and Zed’s Dead, “Everyone that was big we had at that venue, and this was 100% legal. The problem was that every time I would make money on a show, instead of paying the rent or paying the electric, I used it towards bad debt.”

Despite the efforts, it wasn’t enough, and the financial mismanagement caught up to him. Ian was indicted and then slapped with a three-year sentence.

Twenty-one years old, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and an extensive criminal record. The future looked bleak. Instead of letting his current situation wilt his drive and ambition, he imagined what the future could be, “What I did was I wrote my next plan. Like I had everything figured out–the nightclubs, the LLC names, real estate, not that I got into it, but I had everything planned out.” Ian started reading a book a day, lost 100 lbs., and told himself that when he got out, his redemption story would be reopening the nightclub and proving himself as a legitimate club owner.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, Ian found his redemption story in the prison experience itself.

“I always thought that the nightclub story and why I went to prison was the power, and it wasn’t until recently, you know, this year, where I realized that’s not the power. The power is what is in prison because that’s what really genuinely makes me different. And that’s also what these celebrities that get movie deals and TV deals and write books they’re not talking about.”

In 2019, Ian was released from prison and landed a job at Whole Foods, where he found a place to put his ambitious drive to use. He worked his way up to a managerial position and was slated to bring in a six-figure salary until a friend suggested he share his prison experience via daily TikTok videos.

When the world saw an innocent-looking, rosy-cheeked, glasses-wearing twenty-seven-year-old telling the gritty and grimy reality of prison life, the videos went viral. Ian saw an opportunity and took it.

In just one year, Ian has accumulated more than 450,000 TikTok followers and started a successful podcast, Locked In, where he interviews former inmates and shares the struggles and peculiarities of life behind bars. What makes his show so unique is that the guests aren’t the Wolf of Wall Streets or the Billy McFarlands or the Anna Delvys. His guests are those who have fallen between the cracks and whose voices typically go unheard.

“They’re able to come onto my show, and it reaches hundreds of thousands of people, and they’re just sharing their story…And every episode, we focus on their childhood–where they came from–and we realize in those episodes that they’re no different from how you and I grew up, or anyone grew up. And we also realized how some of these individuals didn’t have a choice but to go through a traumatic childhood that led them on a path to addiction and all these things.”

The honesty of the conversations has not only allowed family members of former inmates to better understand what their loved ones have gone through, but it also reminds anyone with a criminal past that they’re not alone and that the light at the end of the tunnel is within reach.

“I think I’ve garnered a lot of support of other people that were in my position that see me succeeding, and gives them hope that they could succeed too.”

Ian’s no longer focused on clearing his name or sharing his side of the multifaceted story.

Instead, he’s showing the world that everyone is capable of a second chance, “The past doesn’t matter to me anymore. You know, I’m at peace with that. I think what I just want to get out there is, overall, the redemption aspect of this. You know, like, hey, this kid fucked up, and I want my mistakes to be put out there, but he’s trying, and he’s taking that situation and turning it into something good.”

The young kid who had the lemonade stands and sold candy at school may be long gone, but his drive to reach new heights in his personal and professional life has remained. Ian has recently delved into the world of boxing and had his first exhibition in November. His ability to look into the future and shape what his life could be is what has led Ian to a new life of new opportunities, and that’s the exact advice he would give to anyone going through a similar situation, “I think I would tell someone, you know, find the light or picture what is your vision for light and never give up and do whatever it takes to get to that, and you’re going to figure it out along the way.”

Not everyone has as turbulent of a ride as Ian, but, in one way or another, we all face adversity and find ourselves face down, counted out, and left to rethink who we are. Redemption comes in many forms, and people like Ian are here to remind us that we aren’t our mistakes; it’s how we get back up and dust ourselves off that defines our stories. We hope Ian’s journey from being locked up to Locked In inspires you to keep pushing when the going gets tough.