Back in 2007, the AP ran a story on one of A&E's "expert" house flippers on the reality series, Flip This House, Atlanta businessman Sam Leccima. Not only was Leccima accused of fleecing investors but of also pulling an elaborate scam on viewers.
The popular A&E reality series Flip This House shows developers buying properties, fixer-uppers and foreclosures, renovating the property then turning it around for a profit.
Tackling one of the most exciting aspects of today's high-stakes real estate market - the transformation of an eyesore into a profit-making beauty - A&E's hour-long "docu-soap" follows the travails of three real-estate developers in the hot housing markets of New Haven, San Antonio and Atlanta, where each boasts a team of characters that buys homes, renovates them, then flips them for a profit. It sounds simple, but sparks fly and tempers are high before the fixer-uppers sell to happy buyers. Source - A&ELeccima starred in the 2006 season of Flip This House where he claimed he was a successful real estate investor who just happened to have had his Georgia Real Estate License revoked in 2005. A Georgia panel ruled Leccima ""does not bear a good reputation for honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, and competence."
WAGA TV in Atlanta investigated Leccima's claims of "flipping" houses and found "mismatched wood floors and patched unpainted walls." But it was the elaborate hoax staged by Leccima, where he had friends and family pose as "buyers" and posted "sold" signs on unsold homes.
Leccima claims he never "owned" the homes and that A&E knew what Leccima was up to. A&E yanked Leccima's show off the air and removed any mention of Leccima from its website.
Today a grand jury in Austin, Texas indicted yet another "house-flipper" from the A&E series.
According to the San Antonio Express News, Armando Montelongo Jr. was indicted on "theft of services" charges for failing to pay appraisal fees. Montelongo could face up to two years in jail for the felony charges.
Montelongo has also been sued by the local school district for over $5,000 in delinquent back taxes. Montelongo's brother David, who starred on the show with Armando and their two wives, is being sued for "breach of contract and fraud" by a California investor.
Armando has capitalized upon his house-flipping success, putting out a series of how-too videos, Flip and Grow Rich and a new business listed on the web, Montelongo House Buyers.
During our two-year debut on “Flip This House”, we appreciated sharing our expertise with viewers and recognized the value of working with family. This time in our lives has now propelled us to even greater opportunities through the commencement of Montelongo Partnerships*, our new company. We believe that true success embodies sharing knowledge with others, modeling virtuous work ethics, and engaging in partnerships that equally benefit each party involved. As a trusted name and face in the real estate industry, we continue to hold higher standards of excellence and integrity in every endeavor. Source - Montelongo House Buyers
This is a case of "viewer beware" as back in 2007 A&E spokesperson Dan Silberman issued a statement from the network:
"A&E Television Networks is not a party to any of the transactions shown in Flip This House and has not received any formal complaints about the properties or sales."
Silberman also made the statement, that in effect, what happens on A&E, stays on A&E, as the network "doesn't investigate claims made by people on the show, opting to take them at their own word."
So in other words, if you're "flipping a house" on A&E, "anything goes" and a "sucker's born every minute." In this case, it's the viewers getting suckered as house flippers can claim they bought a property, fake renovations, then claim they "sold" it for.... whatever they want to claim and the viewer is none the wiser.
Everybody knows, on A&E, anything goes!
Image - Sam Leccima
Image - Montelongo
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.