Albany-- An Albany developer has a warning for you. He's out of thousands of dollars after falling victim to an advanced fee loan scheme. James Miller doesn't want the same thing to happen to you.
Since 1998, the Oglethorpe Development Group has worked to restore a downtown Albany jewel, the Albany Theatre on Jackson Street.
"This is a $1.5 million project," said James Miller.
An expensive job, so in 2004 company President James Miller shopped around for some money that could help. "We were looking for a hard money loan because at that time it was hard to get any kind of conventional loan here," said Miller.
They found The Funding Solutions, a firm out of Connecticut. TFS guaranteed Miller a loan of $550,000 if they received an up-front fee of $10,000. "The agreement was that he was going to refund our money if he did not get us a lender," said Miller.
But after paying the first fee, another company claiming to be a lender stepped in requesting yet another fee of $10,000 to get the loan. "Here we are in bed with all these brokers and all we kept hearing was more fees," said Miller.
That's when he got suspicious and said no way. Miller now has a thick file full of correspondence with TFS, the Attorney General and the Banking Commission. "The banking commission said to us they had about 35 complaints on this man already," said Miller.
The FBI also had suspicions. They conducted a sting operation. It turns out that The Funding Solutions earned millions of dollars from dozens of people. Some payments were as high as $100,000.
"On the day of the arrest, the FBI called and said Mr. Miller we have now arrested Mr. Kalish and he's behind bars," said Miller.
TFS President Leonard Kalish was convicted of conspiracy, and mail and wire fraud in federal court. Miller wants others to learn from his mistake. "For the public, be careful. It's a monster of a world out here," said Miller.
He hasn't received his money back, but he continues his mission of restoration.
Leonard Kalish was convicted in April and will be sentenced October 22nd. James Miller does expect some kind of restitution in the long run.