How Would You Like To Be A Millionaire?
By Jennifer Kraus
Consumer Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- How would you like to be a millionaire?
One former cable TV star insists anyone can do it and it doesn't take much work. That's the premise behind Armando Montelongo's free "wealth-building" seminars. But wait until you see what NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered serious questions about these free seminars and the claims being made when we went in undercover.
Montelongo used to be the guy on the A&E show "Flip This House" who showed viewers how to make money renovating old homes.
Now Montelongo's back in late-night infomercials where he tells viewers, "I'm known as America's number one and top real estate investing expert."
In these same infomercials, Montelongo promises that with his secret real estate system, anyone can easily and quickly become wealthy, just by attending his free two-hour seminar.
"At Armando's live event," The announcer in the infomercials promises, "he will teach you how to help others out of foreclosure while making huge sums of cash."
But when NewsChannel 5 Investigates sent our undercover cameras in to one of these seminars, we quickly discovered this really was just a sales pitch to sign up for yet another seminar that would cost us $1,500.
And, while the infomercials say the seminars are "a rare opportunity to spend time with Armando and learn his millionaire money-making techniques," those promised lessons in "money-making techniques" never happened at the seminar we attended.
"I didn't learn any secrets, nothing that you can't find online," said Lorenzo Spikes who attended another of Montelongo's seminars in Nashville that same week.
And, despite the assurances in the infomercial that "Armando will be there live and in person," he never showed up at the seminars here.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Montgomery Hayes who attended one of Montelongo's seminars in Nashville, "You thought he was going to here?"
"Yes, I did," Hayes answered.
Montelongo later told NewsChannel 5 Investigates by phone that he was too busy with meetings. "Like any CEO of any major corporation, I can't attend every company function."
But we discovered that Montelongo had 30 seminars going in five cities across the country that week and he didn't go to a single one.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates has also learned that the Texas Attorney General opened his own investigation after receiving nearly three dozen complaints, some accusing Montelongo of "bait and switch." People who paid for that $1,500 workshop said they were then told they needed to pay $20,000 more to finally meet with Montelongo and learn his secret techniques.
But Montelongo insists his program works and the success stories featured in both his infomercials and seminars, he maintains, are proof.
In one of the videotaped testimonials, Montelongo asks a man we later identified as Keith Yackey, "How much money have you made?"
Yackey replied, "I made $1.1 million in the last 18 months."
But we did some digging and we found at least two of Montelongo's biggest so-called success stories have not really been as successful as they're made out to be.
"Armando did it, I did it and so can you," Yackey says in another videotaped testimonial.
But Yackey, we discovered, is now being sued in Nevada by at least three real estate investors. He's accused of breach of contract and fraud. He was also evicted from a house in Las Vegas in January, and court records show at least three of his properties are now facing foreclosure.
And in another videotaped testimonial that appears in Montelongo's infomercial and is also featured at his seminars, a woman we discovered is Abigail Peurifoy says, "Now, if a mother of eight can make $110,000 in eight months, anybody can do it."
But Peurifoy, we found, has recently filed bankruptcy and claims in court filings that she hasn't made more than $17,000 the last two years.
The Better Business Bureau's Kathleen Calligan told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "No one gets rich quick, not in real estate or any place else."
And the BBB warns the point of these seminars is to simply sell more seminars.
So it's not to teach people how to become wealthy?
"No," said Calligan.
She added, "There are no secrets and what Armando has, there's probably very little difference in what last year's guru had."
Montelongo says 90,000 people have attended his seminars and most have gone away happy. But the BBB says when you do the math and consider that people are paying $1500, if anyone is getting rich quick from these seminars, it's Montelongo himself.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates did ask Montelongo about those two success stories, those of Keith Yackey and Abigail Peurifoy. Montelongo admitted that neither of them is closely following his system anymore. Yet that is never shared with folks at the seminars.
As far as the investigation by the Texas Attorney General, the AG's office says that shortly after they opened their investigation, Montelongo stopped doing seminars in Texas, but that they're still closely monitoring Montelongo's company and what it's doing.
We did ask a Nashville real estate attorney about what little advice was given during the free seminar, like suggestions to use legal tricks called "land trusts" to buy and sell property without using your own name and to avoid banks altogether.
Brooks Smith with the firm Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings says none of that makes much sense and it all just seems like a bad idea.
"It's a very very, risky venture," Smith said. "If, again, a client came to me and said, 'I'm thinking about doing this,' I would strongly advise them not to do that and not to spend their money or waste their time."
Smith says the suggested practices are generally not used to invest in real estate in Tennessee or most other states.