Introduction:

Have you had an interest in tax lien or tax deed investments? Jason Hartman talks with Florence Hamler as they discuss the potential PIP West Scam which promotes tax liens as an investment. The company uses multiple names and locations, just to clarify for my note above: PIP Group, PIP-West, PIPGroup, PIP-Group, National Realty Group LLC, Platinum Investment Group, Charles Sells, Donald G. Fullman, Jr (Don Fullman), pip group tax liens. Their website says: Tax Lien, Tax Deed, REO and Default Real Estate Investment Specialist.

FLORENCE HAMLER: After a significant amount of money invested with PIP West (Don Fullman and Charles Sells) a bad experience ensued. As I see it, it’s a long story but the end goes something like this…

In the beginning stages it seemed to work for awhile, maybe two years or so, where I invested and got some checks back; however, it was a disaster the end.

Here’s the most blatant part, I gave them and their lawyer $17,500 to foreclose on 10 properties. They told me I had to wait about two years before I would know the status. When I didn’t hear a thing from them for a long time, I tried to reach PIP West via repeated phone and email to no avail. After numerous attempts, I was finally successful (calling from a number unknown to them) but they basically told me that I had lost all my money, and lost the opportunity to foreclose on the 10 properties (a loss of the substantial profits they projected), even though I paid them $17,500 for this and they, as my agent, were supposed to be managing it with a fiduciary responsibility to me.

When I asked a few simple and polite questions via e-mail, Charles Sells told me I had to deal with their lawyer who did not respond until my lawyer got involved. After several go arounds and a lot of wasted time/money, their lawyer was essentially non-responsive to the actual issues at hand.

As it turns out, the lawyer they referred their foreclosures said he doesn’t do business with them anymore – I wonder why?

Also, they have a very tricky contract/arrangement as Don Fullman lives in and dealt with me in Orange County, California but Charles Sells lives in South Carolina while their contract calls for arbitration in Georgia – totally weird and leaving no good recourse.

There’s more to it, but that’s the basic outline from my, and my lawyer’s perspective. Did I get ripped off? 

Key Takeaways:

(4:30) The KISS principle

(7:22) Jason shares a story about his experience with a tax lien scam

(16:36) Introducing Florence to the show

(24:17) Jason explains how the tax lien process works

(32:54) Closing comments

Audio Transcription:

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Creating Wealth with Jason Hartman! During this program Jason is going to tell you some really exciting things that you probably haven’t thought of before, and a new slant on investing: fresh new approaches to America’s best investment that will enable you to create more wealth and happiness than you ever thought possible. Jason is a genuine, self-made multi-millionaire who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. He’s been a successful investor for 20 years and currently owns properties in 11 states and 17 cities. This program will help you follow in Jason’s footsteps on the road to financial freedom. You really can do it! And now, here’s your host, Jason Hartman, with the complete solution for real estate investors.

JASON HARTMAN: Welcome to the show. This is your host, Jason Hartman, and this is episode #417. Thank you so much for joining me today. And greetings, once again, from Peru. I’ve been moving around a little bit, and this time I am in Cusco. And you know, I gotta tell you. We checked into this hotel last night. I’m with a group of 13 friends, and our friend Sophia was the event planner for this event, and it’s just been—I shouldn’t say event. I should say trip, for this adventure, actually. It’s just been a phenomenal, phenomenal vacation, and business and learning trip, and so, all of my friends here are entrepreneurs and a lot of them are in the internet world, and not all of them, but you know, many. I’d say maybe about 70% of them. And we checked into this hotel last night, and it is just stunning. This place is gorgeous. And two of my friends went to the front desk because, you know, we’re not paying for the rooms individually, we just paid for the whole trip, and Sophia planned it, and took care of all the details. You know, the first hotel we were in last week, when we stayed there for three nights, it was this gorgeous resort, just a stunning place. You know, the bathroom had a bidet.

Beautiful combination shower and bathtub, and I actually took two baths. I mean, I never take a bath. Had to use that. And that was just a stunning place with beautiful woodwork, gorgeous lighting in the room, the grounds were beautiful, the restaurants were phenomenal. You know, similar experience here when we checked in last night. And two of my friends were curious as to how much does this place cost. And so they went to the front desk, and you know, hotel rates are about as dynamic and malleable as just about anything you could possibly spend money on. The front desk told them, the cheapest room here was—get this—$1134 per night. Wow.

Now, I’m sure as part of a tour they didn’t pay that much. Got a deal for 13 different rooms. But it just kind of made me think. I mean, I grew up relatively poor. Living in Mar Vista, and Culver City, and kind of the nondescript area of West Los Angeles. And you know, you’ve heard my story probably on the past four hundred and some episodes, I’ve occasionally talked about it. And by about 9th grade, I really realized that this whole money thing was kind of something you just want to take care of in life, and it is important, and those that would say it’s not important are just really not having a very mature attitude about it, because it is important. It’s just a meaning of exchange, and it’s a meaning to do more, and experience more, and contribute more. And I just want to encourage, you know, if there’s anybody listening—I know that our listeners are at every level. You know, some of them are just starting out, and they’re thinking, hey, this real estate thing kind of, the way I thought, at age 16, when I discovered the idea of real estate investing. They’re thinking, this real estate thing sounds pretty good. And I would say to them, it’s definitely pretty great. It’s the most historically proven asset class in America, if not the entire world. And not only is it the most historically proven asset class in America if not the entire world now, but it’s also the most proven asset class throughout history. People at every walk of life that have invested in income property, and they’ve done it in a prudent way, and they’ve stuck with it over the years—it just works! I mean, it really does work. It’s a simple asset class.

The KISS principle

One of the other things I want to say is that any investment that is complex, I have found mostly through negative experiences in life—and today’s show is actually about one of those negative experiences—that complexity is a way to hide defects. So, there’s this old principle called the KISS principle. Keep It Simple, Stupid! Right? That’s the original KISS principle. In sales training they’d say, keep it simple, salesman! It really is important to just invest in things that are relatively simple to understand, that have basic universal need, that have probably been done for thousands and thousands of years, or hundreds of years, or at least several decades, that aren’t complex, that aren’t too new. Let things get proven before you jump into them. You know, that’s probably another good piece of advice. When you look at the world of Wall Street, and the world of a lot of these pooled money Wall Street investments, they talk about this concept of financial innovation. That’s when you want to, as I’ve said many times before—that’s when you want to run for the hills. Financial innovation—you know, granted, finance does grow and change and evolve a little bit. But most of these “financial innovations” are just scams. They’re a way to hide defects through complexity. And that’s kind of what this show is about today.

But when I told you about the hotel thing, I just want to say, my point is, no matter where you are in your financial life, make it the goal of your life to just take care of this money thing. Don’t worship it. It’s not a god. It’s not the most important thing. But it is important, and just take care of it so that you can experience things, and you can not worry about financial things, and not stress about financial things. You know, you can stay in beautiful hotels. You can travel the world in luxury. You can enjoy time with your family or your loved ones. Write a book. Start a business. Pursue a cause. It is important. So, take care of the money thing.

Now, when we talk about investment complexity, today I’m gonna talk about what I believe is a rip off. A scam. I know this because it happened to me, at least as far as I can tell I was scammed. I guess maybe the jury is not completely out on this, but it sure as heck seems to be. We’ve talked about this investment before on the show, and that is the idea—which does seem appealing at its base—in a fundamental way, of tax lien investing. And I’ve been doing tax lien investing for several years. But I think even though it started out okay, I think this particular affair with tax lien investing had a pretty negative ending for me, and for our guest today, who contacted me, found me on the internet, and heard that I had a similar experience with this company that I’m about to talk about. Said that she wanted to come on the show and talk about it. You make your own judgment as to what you think of this. But the word to the wise is, avoid complexity, and avoid things that you don’t directly control.

Jason shares a story about a tax lien scam

So let me tell you what first happened to me, and then you can hear what happened to somebody else. This is sort of a form and area of real estate investing, and the area I like the most is just buying and owning properties directly. I mean, that’s just simple and historically proven. And there are many areas of real estate investing, whether it be tax liens, or notes and trust deeds, or hard money lending, development—there’s all kinds of stuff out there. We all know that. But let’s focus in on this tax lien stuff today. Here was something I wrote a while back, and I’ll just kind of read it to you, and then we’ll go to our guest, and you can hear her experience.

I invested a significant amount of money with PIP-West. Don Fullman and Charles Sells—from what I know, they’re the owner of that company—and had a bad experience. As I see it, it’s a long story, but the end goes something like this. In the beginning stages it seemed to work for awhile, maybe two years or so, where I invested and got some checks back; however, it was a disaster the end.

Here’s the most blatant part. A couple of years ago, PIP-West—Don Fullman and Charles Sells—told me that 10 of the properties that I owned tax liens on in my portfolio, really should be foreclosed on the tax lien. They told me that I had to give them, and their lawyer, $17,500—$1750 each—to foreclose on the 10 properties. And they told me I had to wait about two years before I would know the status. When I didn’t hear anything from them for a long time, I tried to reach them several times. I tried to call, you know, I left messages for Don Fullman, I left messages for Charles Sells, I sent them emails. The repeated phone and email to no avail. After numerous attempts, I was finally successful by calling them from an unknown number. A number unknown to them. You know, not with caller ID. But they basically told me that I had lost all my money. Now, remember, this is not just the $17,500. It’s all the opportunity cost on the properties that they said had a lot of equity on which I should foreclose, because after a long time, the owner of that property did not bring the lien current through the redemption process. They have a long time to do this, okay?

So it is a relatively slow process. The repeated phone and email blah blah blah, okay, I read that already. I was finally successful, they told me I lost all my money, I lost the opportunity to foreclose on the 10 properties, a loss of substantial profits that they had projected. Even though I paid them $17,500 for this, they were supposed to be my agent and manage the attorney relationship, because they referred me to their attorney. Who by the way, I contacted, and is no longer working with them. He wouldn’t say exactly why. And so, I don’t know if he thought they were crooks, or maybe they think he’s a crook. I really just don’t know. You know? And so, anyway. Reading on here, I paid them $17,500 for this, as my agent, they were supposed to be managing it with a fiduciary responsibility to me. When I asked a few simple and polite questions via e-mail, Charles Sells—that’s actually his name. He lives in South Carolina, I believe. Charles Sells told me that I had to deal with their lawyer, who did not respond, by the way, because I forwarded the email to their lawyer asking the same questions, until I got my lawyer to contact their lawyer. And finally, there were a few go-arounds and a lot of wasted time and money. Their lawyer was essentially non-responsive to the actual issues at hand. And even my lawyer—she said it was a complete smokescreen.

She got totally frustrated with their lawyer, who wouldn’t divulge any information. As it turns out—oh, and I mentioned this before. the lawyer they referred their foreclosures to, said he doesn’t do business with them anymore. I wonder why. Also, they have a very tricky contract and arrangement as Don Fullman, who I dealt with, lives in Orange County, California, okay? Now, I think he lives in Aliso Viejo, California, actually. But Charles Sells, the other partner in the company, lives in South Carolina. I think he lives somewhere around Hilton Head, or something like that. While their contract calls for arbitration—and by the way, I’ve alluded to this before. I think arbitration is a giant scam. More on that later, okay?—calls for arbitration in Georgia! Totally weird. Leaving no good recourse for the investor. There’s more to it, but that’s the basic outline of my and my lawyer’s perspective. Did I get ripped off? And I got a few comments on this blog post saying, sounds like you did. Okay? I did also do a follow up post, and it said, they use multiple names and locations just to clarify my note above. PIP-Group—PIP-West, PIP-Group, National Realty Group LLC, Platinum Investment Group, Charles Sells, Donald G. Fullman Jr., Don Fullman, PIP-Group Tax Liens, and their website says tax lien, tax deed, REO, and default real estate specialist. So, you be the judge, folks.

But, the lesson of this podcast, this episode, and you know, we’ve covered a lot of things on the past 416 episodes. But the real takeaway from this one is, be a direct investor, as I always say, don’t violate Commandment #3. Now, this one isn’t exactly a violation of my Commandment #3 of the 10 Commandments, because it’s sort of a pseudo-direct investment. You own the tax liens. But the problem is, the world of tax lien investing is so complicated compared to income property investing, that you really have to trust your agent—that’s this PIP Don Fullman and Charles Sells people—to manage the process for you, and they’re in multiple geographies, and you have to appear at these auctions and so forth, and so on. So that’s the first lesson. The second lesson—and you know, I really need a commandment about this. I released my original 10 Commandments. Then I released a next 10 Commandments. So there are actually 20 of them now. And you’ve heard that on prior episodes. Maybe in the next set of 10 Commandments it’ll be something about complexity. Avoid complexity like the plague. And the other big takeaway from this show is, anything complex is probably a way to hide a flaw. And maybe it’s the way to hide an outright scam. So, you be the judge. Again, I don’t know. I just know I don’t have the money, and I don’t have any communication from these people. So, that seems pretty bad to me.

We’ll go to our guest. Her name is Florence. She’s an investor from Los Angeles. You can hear her story. And on the next several episodes—boy, we’ve got some awesome stuff coming up for you. Just before we go to Florence, I’ll tell you about our next episodes. We’ve got Joel Skousen back on the show for the second time on episode 418. Matthew Hart—he’s kind of a gold guy. He’s the author of Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal. And our 10th episode will be Mark Devine, and let me tell you, this guy is awesome. He’s written several books. He’s a former Navy SEAL. And his latest book is called The Way of the SEAL, and he runs an organization in San Diego called SEAL Fit. And if you want to talk about getting your mind and your body and your confidence, your thinking, in shape in so many ways, I think you’re really going to enjoy that episode a lot. #421 we’ll have Brian Ellis with us, he’s gonna talk about some really interesting and unique real estate news, and self-directed IRAs. He’s got a unique angle on that that you’ll enjoy.

Scott Paul will be episode 422, talking about manufacturing, and he’s with the Alliance for American Manufacturing. He’s gonna talk about the hotspots in the country where you get that good solid manufacturing base. So, some great stuff there. 423 we got Sidney Powell, and she’s talking about her book Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice. You’re gonna hear some really interesting new stuff about the Enron case from her, that I did not know, and I found it quite fascinating. On 424, it’s just gonna be me, and I’m probably gonna do a market profile, it looks like. I haven’t decided yet. 425, Sean Haugh; he’s a senate libertarian candidate from North Carolina. 426, John Schellinger will be on talking about employment and global outplacement, and placing people around the world. And 427, kind of an interesting guest—this almost could be a 10th episode, but I decided to put it as a regular one. It’ll be the world famous Jenny Craig. You know Jenny Craig? She’s got some interesting perspectives on her story, and health and fitness, and how she built a really successful business. Obviously you all know the name Jenny Craig. And sold it for a bazillion dollars. So I think you’ll enjoy that one too. So, we’ve got some really, really good stuff. That, and a whole lot more that I haven’t slated with episode numbers yet, coming up.

Let’s get to our guest, and talk about how to avoid investment scams, and that’s Florence. Okay? So, here we go.

[MUSIC]

Introducing Florence to the show

JASON HARTMAN: I want to welcome Florence to the show. She was a client of a group called PIP-West that promotes tax liens as an investment, and as such, it seems as though there may be some funny business going on here. There have been some things written online, and some people I’ve talked to about this, and we just want to hear more about it, and shine some light on the subject. Florence, welcome. How are you?

FLORENCE: I’m great. How are you doing, Jason?

JASON HARTMAN: Well good, good. It’s good to have you. And you’re coming to us—you live in Los Angeles, is that correct?

FLORENCE: That’s right.

JASON HARTMAN: You were at a real estate seminar, and you met a mutual acquaintance of ours, Joel. Who also recommended this same company to me, coincidentally. Tell us what happened. So, the company you invested with was—I just want to make sure the name is right. It’s PIP-West. And there’s another one called PIP-Group. And the PIP stands for Platinum Investment Properties. And what they do is, they don’t actually do properties, but they sell tax liens and tax deed investments. So, tell us how it came about for you, what they told you, and just how it all started.

FLORENCE: I attended a real estate seminar in the Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas area, back in the late part of—I think it was either the late part of 2005, or early 2006. And I did meet Joel in the group. Very nice man. Very intelligent. And he just, you know, started talking about this as an investment, and he was saying that he was having pretty good luck with this company, PIP-West, and so he recommended the investment to me. And I took the plunge, and you know, a good chunk of my retirement went into PIP-West, after speaking with Don Fullman, you know, several times. He—Don Fullman, he just had a very fatherly demeanor.

JASON HARTMAN: Right.

FLORENCE: On the phone. A very, very nice mellow sounding voice. He answered all of my questions very thoroughly. And that was the extent of my vetting of the company. I guess I should have done more extensive research on the company itself, but I was sold by Don, his spiel. So yeah, that’s what happened. I took the plunge—

JASON HARTMAN: So, now, you—I just want to make sure there’s no confusion here. You call it Pip, I call it PIP—and it’s an acronym for Platinum Investment Properties. I want to make sure we clear that up. And Don Fullman, who is like one of the owners of the company, and he is based in Southern California, I believe he’s based in Aliso Viejo, California. Which is in Orange County, near where I used to live, for many years. And then his associate that you’re probably going to talk about here in a moment, is another owner of the company, whose name is Charles Sells. And Sells is S-E-L-L-S, like selling things. And Charles Sells is based in, I believe South Carolina. Is that your understanding?

FLORENCE: I learned something new there. I didn’t know where Charles was based. I had no—you know, no reason to ask.

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, I think he’s in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I believe. Or somewhere around there. So what happened next? So you met with Don Fullman, he answered your questions, you said he came off as a fatherly figure, kind of nice, and he’s a very mellow guy. I’ve met him several times myself. Do you care to say how much you invested with him?

FLORENCE: I invested a total of about $35,000.

JASON HARTMAN: $35,000. Okay. What happened next?

FLORENCE: And I never met with him personally, I guess it’s a matter of details; all of this was over the phone.

JASON HARTMAN: Met virtually. Yeah.

FLORENCE: He sent me the paperwork. You know, to purchase the tax liens for Illinois. It was the 2006 Illinois tax liens. And it’s in my Roth IRA, so I got set up—[indiscernible] Equity Trust company, everything went through him. He handled all of the paperwork.

JASON HARTMAN: Okay. Now, let’s just explain for the listeners. Don Fullman and Charles Sells—talked to Don on the phone, you invested, and they told you to set up an account for a self-directed IRA with Equity Trust. Which—Equity Trust seems like a fine company to me. I have no problem with them. They’re just a custodian.

An IRA administrator custodian type company. And there are many of them out there; they’re just one place you can do this.

FLORENCE: I had no problem with Equity Trust.

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, no, I think Equity Trust is a good company. Okay. Go ahead. So, that’s who they were working with. And they recommended you set the account up with them.

FLORENCE: So, we got all set up [indiscernible] this really nice binder of the information showing line by line all of the tax liens that they had invested in for you. I invested in two counties—[indiscernible] County and Winnebago County. So, everything looked like it was on the up and up. You know, it looked like it was. And then you know, it felt like Don was a very meticulous person. Because you know, that was very tedious work. And then they give you this quarterly report on the status of all your liens, and the redemption. So, a few redemptions came in, they trickled in, and in the beginning, it had happened on a fairly regular basis. And so I was happy. I was thinking, wow, this is pretty sweet. This is—I think it was 18% on every six months. That’s like—I think it was 36% a year, if everything worked as it should have. That was good. But then, after a while, it stopped. Nothing came in. And then the next thing I knew, they were sending out—they sent out, you know, an email saying that we had the opportunity to foreclose on several of the properties. I only had enough—well, I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on attorney fees, so I just chose property that I felt had the most potential for yielding a good return.

So I picked one of the properties, and at that point, Charles Sells had taken over that portion of it, or that aspect of it, and the money for the attorneys fees was taken out of my Roth IRA, and after that, I waited, and waited, and waited, and then six months later, I asked for a status update, and at first they tell you the same thing—well, it’s in process, it’s in process. And this went on for, I believe, it was three years later, and I’m still asking, what happened to the foreclosure? You know? What’s going on? And there was never any concise, clear answers forthcoming from either of them. I would call Don, he would refer me to Charles, and then Charles would not answer, and then—but then, you know, to his credit, later on, like years down the road, he started to be responsive. But I think what happened with the foreclosures was nothing, and then many, many years later, you know, I got mad about it, thinking about, you know, what’s going on with these people? And so, I started pressing them, and the tone of my emails became less cordial, and I was demanding answers, and at that point, they said, oh, we’re going to make you an audit of all of your liens. And they did. And he sent me this really big long spreadsheet of the status of all of my liens—

JASON HARTMAN: Now, what’s the time frame here, Florence?

FLORENCE: I would say, when I really pressed them might have been about—I’m just going to guess. Maybe like three years, or so? It seemed like that.

JASON HARTMAN: Okay. So it’s 2014 now. So, somewhere in 2011. Somewhere around there, right?

FLORENCE: Yeah. Could have been 2011, 2012, possibly.

Jason explains how the tax lien process works

JASON HARTMAN: Before you go on, I just kind of want to explain to the listeners what is possibly happening here, and kind of how these tax lien work. Basically, what happens is, when somebody doesn’t pay their property taxes, some municipalities allow investors to buy the tax lien. And what this does is it frees up money for the municipality, because if someone owes $3000 in back taxes on their property, and the government is not collecting the tax revenue, they can just sell that tax lien, or tax deed, to an outside private investor, and they do this through auctions. And one of the things that PIP-West—Don Fullman and Charles Sells—the service they offer is they offer to act as your agent, and go to the auction for you, and find good liens or deeds for you to buy, and then buy them on your behalf. And then what happens after that—and Florence, interrupt me any time if I’m not explaining this correctly to the listeners.

But what happens next is, there’s a period by which the owner of that property, who is delinquent on their property taxes, has the opportunity to pay the back taxes and redeem the lien. In other words, they make it good, they make the payments current, they pay late fees, fines, interest, whatever. Everything’s fine, and the investor and the owner of the property part ways, and the owner of the property owns the property, and their life goes on, and the investor goes on and looks for another thing to invest in. If they never pay the taxes, then it gets to a point, after some time passes, where the investor holding the lien or the tax deed, has the opportunity to foreclose on the property, and buy the property through foreclosure, essentially. You know, these are promoted by these promoters as very good deals. And you know, you may have seen late night infomercials promising, you know, where you can buy houses for pennies on the dollar. And you know, there are a few stories like that out there that are true stories, right? But, you know, they’re probably really, one in a million type things, mostly. These promoters always promote the one in a million example to sell the investment to 5,000 other people that aren’t going to get that kind of opportunity. If it’s true it’s true, it could happen, right? So, that’s basically what happens. And so, PIP-West—at some point, they picked some of the liens and they say, hey, you should foreclose on these properties, and we’ve got an attorney that you can hire, or we’ll hire on your behalf, and that attorney will do the foreclosure, right? So, is that the point where we are, Florence?

FLORENCE: Precisely.

JASON HARTMAN: Okay. I just wanted to give the listeners a little background on that, okay, so that would have a context. Go ahead.

FLORENCE: I did authorize them to foreclose on one of the properties, and you know, I was not even accessed to the attorney, you know—I mean, they had to handle everything up until that point. Vanish everything. So, I’ve seen that they’re managing the attorney as well. And the foreclosure process. So I waited and waited and waited, and nothing happened. I said, six months later, I inquired about the status. I got no response! No response at all from Charles Sells! So, I got tired of trying. I would keep asking. He finally did start to respond, but he was basically not much of a response. Like, he didn’t know what was going on, but he would check into it and get back to me.

JASON HARTMAN: You had to constantly call them or email them, and wait, and wait, and wait, and they didn’t tell you anything. And you said, they finally started to respond to you a little bit, but it wasn’t satisfactory, was it? The response?

FLORENCE: Far from it. So, this process went on for years. When I was trying to get to the bottom of what happened to the foreclosures, and I was just—you know, like how in the—okay, every six months, I will make another request. So, that went on for a long, long time. And then I forget exactly what year it was, but then I—actually, you know what? I found an email. This email is from 2013. February of 2013. Charles sent me an email telling me—I’ll just read the first part of it. It just says, with regards to your foreclosure blah blah blah, the attorney we were working with at the time of your foreclosure declared a sale in error on the tax bill.

JASON HARTMAN: What does that mean?

FLORENCE: I have no idea!

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, right.

FLORENCE: Normally, we get back all your postable fees paid towards foreclosure, your cost of the lien, and an additional 1% per month until the sale in error is paid. In this circumstance, the attorney never filed the necessary paperwork for us to declare the sale in error with the judicial system. By no means is this an excuse, but we have had extraordinary problems with this attorney, like in your situation, and have taken it upon ourselves to recover on behalf of our clients. Therefore, we are refunding you the cost of your lien, as well as the $1000 fee to the attorney to foreclose. I don’t know if they ever paid me the $1000. At least they stepped up in that regard, but it’s like, you know, well, what is a sale in error? Why did this all happen? Why are you hiring incompetent attorneys? Why are you taking so long to get back to me about the status of the foreclosure? And I could have foreclosed—if I had just handled it myself, if I just went straight to the county, what I learned from talking to somebody at [indiscernible] County, is that you have three years to do what’s called a request to petition for deed. And if you fail to do that within three years, it expires. The opportunity to foreclose completely vanishes, and that’s what happened to me. Now, had I been informed about that, I would have taken it upon myself to foreclose, and hired my own attorney, instead of just being so trusting and leaving everything up to the so-called experts to handle it for me.

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah.

FLORENCE: So, in my opinion, I felt that it was completely botched. They were non-communicative, and I really don’t know what is going on with that operation over there. And you know, fast forward to today, the situation is, you know, they did send me a spreadsheet, a big long Excel spreadsheet with all the status of the liens, and they did admit that at the time they bought the liens for me, that they were not up to their current standard. They have, you know, investing parameters, and they said, from what I understand that to me, they bought some crappy liens for me! They would make it up to me by giving me a little bit of money for some of them. Which they did. It wasn’t much. But that leaves me with about $19,000 of what I thought were just worthless liens. That’s more than—way over 50% of them were lost. I don’t know what to do with these liens. They’re just languishing in my account, and I’m going to have to take them out of Equity Trust, because at least once a year they send you a bill for their fees, so that comes out of your account balance, and you know, eventually, all of my profits—all of my investments are going to be eaten up by Equity Trust fees. So this has been a really, really horrible investment, and I would advise anyone who’s thinking about investing with them to really do your research first. Don’t do what I did. Don’t be so trusting. And just, you know, know what you’re getting into, and understand what your—the different time frames, that you have within which to act. And steer clear of them, basically! I don’t know if there’s other tax lien buyers who do the same service, that conduct themselves responsibly, but I have to say, everything I’ve seen of this company, they did not handle my account with fiduciary—their fiduciary duty to me, it was breached.

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, right.

FLORENCE: And at this point, I don’t know what legal recourse I have. I haven’t really checked into that. I really actually had written it off in my mind as a total loss, but if there’s something that could be done, I’m certainly open to considering that. And yeah. I just hope no one else gets scammed like I did, so that’s why I agreed to go on your show, Jason.

JASON HARTMAN: Yeah, okay. The thing is, when we learn about something like this, we want to try and shed light on it, to protect other consumers that might invest, and get burned. So, have to tell you that you are not the first person I’ve heard this from. As you know, I’m an investor with them, or was, I should say, I guess. Pretty much a very similar story happened to me, and I lost a bunch of money with this company. So, I’m very upset about it, and hoping that I am going to somehow recover. That remains to be seen. But certainly by shining some light on it, and sharing the story, other people might come out, they might have answers, they might say, they know this, they know that, and that information might lead us to a recovery. So, Florence, I appreciate you sharing your story. Thank you!

Closing comments

FLORENCE: It’s been my pleasure. Good luck to you, Jason. Thank you for having me on.

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Episode: CW 417: The PIP Group Tax Lien & Tax Deed Investing Scam with Former PIP-WEST Client Florence Hamler

Guest: Florence Hamler

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