Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Looking a grift horse in the mouth: Kevin Trudeau protege Coach Coral lands in hot water

NOTE: There is a very important update on this story (dated 30 November 2016) at the very end of this post.

It's time to finally shake myself free of my holidaze -- the most recent celebration being Cosmic Connie Day, aka my birthday, the celebration of which is actually still going on. But let's get down to Whirled business. Continuing this blog's prevailing theme of No Neat and Tidy Endings, or NNATE as my dear friend Julie Daniel puts it, we turn our attention to one of the lesser known cohorts of now-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie on this Whirled. That would be one Coral Rose Grant, a "Life Coach" formerly known as Coral Thomas before she got hitched to a fellow grifter, Mac Grant. Two can scam as cheaply as one, and it seems these two have now landed themselves in a bit of legal trouble.

As first reported by
Ryan Kocian on Courthouse News Service on January 25, 2016 -- and again, thanks to Julie Daniel for pointing this out to me -- there seems to be a class action suit brewing against Coral's life coaching scampire, the accusation being that she and her hubby were running a Ponzi scheme. The essentials:
Named plaintiffs Cheri Lucas and April Fisher sued Coaching by Coral LLC dba The Secret to Life Coaching and three of its affiliates or shells; their CEOs Coral Rose Grant fka Coral Rose Thomas and Gary McGonagle Grant II aka Mac Grant; and their associate Heather Suzanne Perdue, in Travis County Court.

The defendant companies include The Release LLC, Infinity Manifestation LLC, and Superdue Inc., all of Colorado.

Lucas and Fisher seek to represent a class of "all persons who have entered into 'coaching contracts' or 'investor contracts' with any of the defendants."
Earlier today (January 26), the news was picked up by the Daily Beast, with an eye-rolling lede -- that is, eye-rolling regarding the Paris event being described, not the writer's choice to use that as a lede.
It’s early 2015 in a Paris conference room and nerdy men in suits are shouting: “I’m sassy, I’m sexy, I’m sensational!” The words, indecipherable if not for the video’s caption, are a part of a warm-up game during a life-coaching retreat—one aimed at shaping the world's best life coaches.

A company called The Secret to Life Coaching (TSTLC)—one that’s now under government investigation—hosted the retreat. Founded in 2008 by Coral Rose Grant, TSTLC’s stated mission is to help people “live their best lives” and, ultimately, make a career out of teaching others the same.

This week, it is the subject of a
major class-action lawsuit led by two former clients, Cheri Lucas and April Fisher—the latter of whom taught classes for TSTLC. Together, the two allege that the company was part of a Ponzi scheme devised by Coral and her husband, Mac, in which they pocketed investor money totaling anywhere from $8 million to $20 million, using it to “live like royalty.”
Charging people hundreds of dollars to help them find the “life of their dreams,” they instead used it to live out their own. The mastermind behind the scheme, the two claim, was a “career fraudster and federal felon” Kevin Trudeau, the “infomercial king” who is serving time in prison for diet books. Coral, they say, not only visited Trudeau in prison, but spent money trying to get him released.

The plaintiffs are represented by Camden Chancellor in Odessa, Texas and Arnaldo Pereira in Austin. So far I haven't been able to track down any actual court documents.
[Update: I finally obtained the court docs on February 16; see link at the end of this post.]

Now. I hate to say "I told you so." No, I don't. But I won't, not in so many words. Instead I will take my usual annoying approach of rubbing your nose in the fact that
I've mentioned Coral a few times on this blog over the past couple of years.

It's not that I'm some scoopy investigative journalist. I am actually pretty lazy. But I got a few heads-ups about Coral from a former Trudeau/Global Information Network (GIN) insider a few years ago, and I've been watching her ever since, more or less. Okay, I've been sleeping on the job lately. But still. 

This November 2014 piece is one of my posts where I mentioned Coral's scams, including a mention of the Paris bash featured in the Daily Beast lede, and it has links to previous mentions. The post is long and is not entirely about Coral, so skip down to the pink subhead, "We'll always have Paris..."

Be sure to take note of another player in this little drama, Nancy Ashley, long-time GIN member and Trudeau loyalist. I share a screen shot of one of her posts about another coaching retreat hosted by Coral and gang, and it appears from that screen shot that
Chris "Voldemort" McGarahan, another Katie cohort and also a co-owner of the "new" GIN, is/was quite involved with Coral's coaching scampire.

The current reports about the pending class action frame Coach Coral's association with Kevin Trudeau as "information and belief," but as far as I am concerned the matter goes beyond informed speculation. Coral proudly promoted herself as being one of the few life coaches in the universe who was personally mentored by Trudeau. You can read about it
in this May 2014 Whirled post. And as for the allegation that she helped pay for Kevin's legal defense, the writing has been all over the wall on that one, including the walls of this blog. To quote me in that May 2014 piece:

A couple of C.I.s have told me to watch out for [Coral] and her pals, because they're still actively involved in enterprises that will benefit Katie. Coral and gang reportedly have an agreement with Katie to raise a certain amount of money -- $100k or so, according to some sources -- for his legal defense in exchange for rights to market some of his frauducts and flopportunities and/or other benefits.
And the Paris to-do in early 2015 was actually promoted as a fund raiser for Kevin's legal defense. Interestingly enough, the Courthouse News Service piece quotes the complaint as saying, "Coral's criminal activities seem to have been too much even for Trudeau, since plaintiffs have been informed that Trudeau told her to stop." Whether or not that is true, it does appear that the cat is now officially out of the bag regarding Coral's schemes.

It appears that this was a long time coming.
Here's a Ripoff Report from a dissatisfied customer in Colorado, dated October 2014.

If the plaintiffs or other vics had read my earlier blog posts, perhaps they wouldn't have lost so many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Oh, I am only kidding. I may be a narcissist, but I am not that full of myself. More than likely those who had to learn the hard way would have dismissed me as a hater or a dream stealer,
like so many GIN members did for years -- and like so many other true believers still do.

This case is only in its very early stages and may end up fizzling out, or being settled out of court, or it may actually become a really big thing. With court cases you just never know. And I am not sure about jurisdiction since the plaintiffs are in Texas and the defendants in Colorado, though with a class action suit that may be moot, provided the case was properly filed in the right court. Sometimes lawyers make really big mistakes in that regard. Any of you legal brains out there, feel free to enlighten me. In any case I'll keep you posted and will add any updates, including court documents, if they become available to me.

Meanwhile if anyone reading this has any additional insights I'm all ears (or eyes). I'd like to hear from people who have experiences with Coral's coaching companies, good or bad. I'll respect anonymity as requested. Plaintiffs: I'd definitely love to hear from you, and if I do, I won't tell you, "I told you so." Coral and Mac, y'all are welcome to weigh in as well, though I rather suspect you won't since you haven't responded to other journos' attempts to get a comment.

The lesson here, besides the whole NNATE thing, is caveat emptor. Especially when it comes to "life coaching." That is as true now as it was
nearly nine years ago when I wrote this.

UPDATE, January 28, 2016: 
I'm still trying to round up some court documents. Meanwhile, it seems that Coral has been rather silent on her Facebook page. Some mischievous soul (not I) posted a link to the Daily Beast article about the lawsuit on her timeline, but that seems to be gone now. And her Facebook profile seems to be devoid of information about her companies and accomplishments...

...though her "Intro" blurb on the landing page still describes her as a "Real Estate Investor...Venture Capitalist...TV Show Host...Mentor...Author...Speaker & Trainer."

But the snow must go on. A friend of mine got this email yesterday...

And as noted above, Infinity Manifestation is one of the named defendants in this developing case.

And in the Turds of a Feather category...


Coral and Mac do love to hobnob with the Rich(ard) and famous. But Branson, like most celebs, will probably pose with anyone who asks, so I wouldn't put too much stock in this photo.

Anyway. I'll have more about the court case as soon as I know more. While you're waiting, here are some recent-ish posts from Coral's Facebook page. Those of you who have lost thousands of dollars to this grifting couple, try not to gag. 


UPDATE, February 6, 2016:
Here is some more lamestream media coverage of Coach Coral's troubles. It is basic reporting of the facts of the case -- nothing really new there -- and the rest is a cautionary note about the necessity of checking out the credentials of any "life coach" you are thinking of hiring. The article kind of misses the point that the basis of Coral's scampire was NOT providing actual "coaching" to gullible individuals; instead she made her fortune teaching others to be scammers. She also apparently had some shady investment deals going and was able to extract money that way as well; I've heard from a few folks who were screwed by her out of astonishing amounts of money but who really are not ready to come forward with their stories yet. I hope to have actual updates, including the actual court documents, soon.

UPDATE, February 16, 2016:
Thanks to the tireless efforts of an invaluable friend and ally I finally got the Complaint documents. It was far more of an ordeal to get it than it should have been. But here you go.
Of note, the complaint does address the jurisdiction issue I raised at the beginning of this post.

IMPORTANT UPDATE, November 30, 2016:
Coral says there never was a lawsuit, that the whole thing has been resolved, and that everyone is happy.

Although I invited Coral and/or Mac Grant to publicly comment on this post way back in January of this year when I first published it -- and they could have easily done so via the comments section -- I heard nothing from them for months and months and months. I did hear from a couple of anonymous commenters: one who claimed to have a relative who'd been scammed by Coral's coaching schemes; and another person claimed to have been financially hurt by her but still believes Coral was an amazing leader and mentor, and has made a positive difference in a lot of people's lives.

But I heard nothing from Coral herself until today -- more than ten months later -- and it was via Facebook rather than my blog or email (she says she couldn't find my email address).

Today I visited Coral's Facebook page for the first time in a long time, and on a whim I responded to one of her anti-Clinton/pro-Trump political posts, which she wrote earlier this month. The post was about a Newt Gingrich video regarding Clinton's alleged "conflicts of interest," and
I simply responded with a link to an Atlantic piece on Donald Trump's numerous and dramatic conflicts of interest. And that's when I finally heard from Coral. Here are screen shots of the conversation (click to enlarge):

But because search engines look for words and not pictures, and because I want to be fair to Coral, I will post the conversation here:
Coral Grant: Don't comment on my page! By the way you might want to do some fact checking because everything you wrote about me on your blog is wrong! You're lucky I don't sue you because news outlets picked up on your crap.
Connie Schmidt: Tell me exactly what I got wrong and I will make corrections.
Coral Grant: Connie Schmidt take it all down because none of it is accurate. I never had a Ponzi scheme and I've never been sued for anything.
Coral Grant: I had a very legitimate coaching certification company and I've changed thousands of lives. I currently still do even though I had to shut the company down because I had huge issues with our financial team stealing money.
Coral Grant: Ask any of my clients and you will get a completely different picture of who I am and the impact that I've made.
Connie Schmidt: But you were sued. Was the case dismissed? If so I will add that to my blog. I want to be fair.
Coral Grant: No I was never sued there is no 30 million or 20 million Dollar lawsuit filed against me.
Coral Grant: If I was sued I would have been forced into bankruptcy which I was not
Coral Grant: And I'm still giving out refunds like I have over the last year to the people that believed in the company. I'm doing everything I can to make it right however everything that you printed about me was wrong
Coral Grant: There was never any case at all. I've had people send emails threatening but nothing has ever been filed and definitely nothing about a Ponzi scheme.
Coral Grant: Everything had to do with business debts and everything has already been resolved and people are happy with the agreements that I have made with them.
Connie Schmidt: But there was a complaint filed in court. Have you settled with plaintiffs Cheri Lucas and April Fisher?
Coral Grant: No there wasn't a file and they threatened to sue me for $100,000 for wages she thought she earned it had nothing to do with $20 million Ponzi scheme
Connie Schmidt: Regarding the Ponzi scheme accusation: if you read my blog post you will see that I was reporting about a case that had been filed in court, and I cited a Courthouse News Service article that said you had been ACCUSED of running a Ponzi scheme. This is that article:
Coral Grant: I had to hire a company to completely redo my online reputation still isn't done because of what you did! I would hope in the future you would ask questions and get all the facts before you put something so terrible about somebody. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of your blog. Please do better in the future! Also I don't owe you an exclamation you should be apologizing to me!
Coral Grant: This is not accurate! Like every other news outlet out there including yours!
Coral Grant: Please do everything you can to take down what you wrote and get it off the Internet! I'm hopping on a plane and I'm done with this conversation.
Connie Schmidt: Almost nobody reads my blog so you can't blame me for your reputation being compromised. People wrote to me about you and how you had scammed them. I had never even heard of you before I heard from these folks.
Coral Grant: Connie Schmidt I am not blaming you exclusively! I have contacted every other news outlet and said the same thing to them. You did not have any way to contact you on your blog so now I'm letting you know just like I let them know to take this crap down if it's not true!
Connie Schmidt: Um... my email addresses -- BOTH of them -- are on my blog and have been for years.
Coral Grant: I don't subscribe to your blog! When I google my name your blog about me comes up and I could not find your contact info.
Coral Grant: Either way! Please get this taken care of as soon as possible. Thank you!
Connie Schmidt: You don't have to subscribe to my blog to read the email addresses on it. I know they are clearly viewable on the Web edition and I think you can get to them from the mobile edition as well.
Connie Schmidt: I will make appropriate addenda to my blog post about the case.
Coral Grant: Thank you!
So there you have it. And let me clarify some points.
  1. Coral wrote to me: "There was never any case at all. I've had people send emails threatening but nothing has ever been filed and definitely nothing about a Ponzi scheme."
    a. First off, Coral seems to be telling me that the case never existed. But
    SOMETHING was filed back in January of this year). Though I was and am opinionated, I was quite tentative in my actual reportage about this case. I speculated that the outcome of the case was anyone's guess. I wrote: "This case is only in its very early stages and may end up fizzling out, or being settled out of court, or it may actually become a really big thing. With court cases you just never know." And that's true. If there are followup documents -- if the case was dismissed or withdrawn by the plaintiffs or there was a settlement -- I would like to see relevant documents and I will report and share as appropriate. For now what I have is Coral's claim that one complainant (she didn't specify which one -- Cheri Lucas or April Fisher?) only threatened to sue her for $100,000 for money she thought that Coral owed her, but it had nothing to do with a Ponzi scheme and, in Coral's words, "there wasn't a file." Now, I am not a lawyer. And it is very possible that I just do not understand the definition of "filing" and that the document I shared (Cause no. D-1-GN-16-000281, 1/18/2016 in Travis County, Texas) was never actually filed. Perhaps it was just a draft or even a clever forgery. But a lawyer friend of mine had to pay the Travis County 98th Judicial District Court nearly $60 to obtain a copy of the document, so I'm thinking that it went beyond the draft stage and that it was genuine, even if the case all came to naught.
    b. It is possible that Coral was never properly served, due to attorney error or the inability of the process servers to locate her, for whatever reason. If she was never served -- for whatever reason -- it would be technically correct to state that she was not actually sued. But if that is what happened I had no way of knowing it, and I assume that none of the other people who reported it knew it either.
    c. I personally never directly accused Coral and her hubby of running a Ponzi scheme; as anyone can see if they read my blog post, I merely reported what
    my source article said about complaints that had apparently been filed in court against Coral. It was the complainants who alleged that she was running a Ponzi scheme, not I. Granted, the Daily Beast article about it should have added "alleged" to their headline, but that was their headline, not mine. I am very well aware that there is a legal definition of a Ponzi scheme and that not every scam, dodgy scheme or even legitimate but money-losing enterprise is a Ponzi scheme. Technically, in fact, Kevin Trudeau's huge scam, the Global Information Network (GIN) was never actually determined by the courts to be a Ponzi scheme or even an illegal pyramid scheme (though it undoubtedly was a pyramid scheme, and the Federal Trade Commission's experts agreed on that), and I have always been quite careful to make those distinctions in my own writing. Moreover, while allegations in a legal document are not actually proof of the truth of those allegations -- since people are pretty much free to say anything they want in a legal complaint -- the complainants did indeed accuse Coral and Mac of running a Ponzi scheme, and that's what the media reported. Here are screen shots of two pages of the complaint:

  2.  As you can see for yourself by reading the dialogue above, Coral claims that she had and has a "very legitimate coaching certification company" and that she changed thousands of lives, and she only had to shut the previous company down because she had "huge issues with our financial team stealing money." If that is true, shame on the "financial team." Perhaps she should be suing them. If she does I will be glad to report that.
  3. I should emphasize -- and again, just for the sake of bending over backwards to be fair -- that Coral claims the whole to-do was a misunderstanding that had to do with business debts and whatnot. Or maybe it had to do with the financial team stealing money. I'm a little confused. But anyway, according to Coral it has all been resolved, and everyone is happy, and she is giving out refunds to anyone who wants them. "I'm doing everything I can to make it right however everything that you printed about me was wrong," said she, to me.
  4. Coral implied a threat to sue me because "news outlets" picked up on my "crap," and she claims that she lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of what I wrote about this case. I will have to call b.s. on that. As I pointed out to her, almost nobody reads this little blog. I have the stats to prove it. As of the time I'm writing this, only 277 pairs of eyeballs have gazed upon this particular post since I first published it in January. Whirled Musings is an almost embarrassingly unvisited outpost of the blogosphere. But I still strive to be accurate. I have standards. And I got my original information about the case from content that had already been published on a couple of other legitimate sites that rank much higher on the search engines than I ever have. These content providers did not get their information from me; the reverse was true. Apparently, however, my blog pops up when Coral Google-searches herself.
  5. Most of my blog content consists of opinions, though I make every effort to get the facts on which I base those opinions correct. As of now, all I have on which to base corrections and additions and clarifications are Coral's own statements. So I have published these. Regarding my opinions, I stand firmly by my opinions about life coaching schemes and about anyone who is closely associated with serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, or even simply claims to be closely associated with him. (And by the way, I also stand by my rather unpopular-among-scambusters opinion that nonviolent scammers don't belong behind bars.)

Anyone who has any questions, comments, or clarifications can either comment on this blog directly (comments will not appear immediately, because I moderate), or you can write to me at one of these email addresses:

Monday, January 18, 2016

On love and hate and blogging

A belated Happy New Year to all of you. Since my Christmas decorations, such as they are, are still up -- I'll keep them up at least until my birthday, aka Cosmic Connie Day, which is next week-- I consider that the holidaze are still ongoing. But it is high time that I break in 2016 with a new blog post.

As usual, I didn't make any New Years resolutions because I think they're a waste of time. However, a frequent topic of this blog certainly made one, and posted it on January 3 for the waiting world.

If this is any sort of reference to his critics, you have to wonder what he has in mind. Will it be something legal but ill-thought-out and stupid like another lame lawsuit against certain hobby bloggers? (See
here and here for examples, particularly if you are an attorney considering taking on a defamation case on his behalf.)

Will it be something not really legal and totally unethical, but not terribly actionable either, like another defamation campaign against his critics? He's nothing if not the poor man's Elron Hubbard, with his own inept version of
Operation Fair Game that he has been utilizing at least since the 1990s.

Or does he have in mind
something illegal, like using that "revenge insurance" he boasted about some time back?

Or maybe, despite his constant whining that he has been hacked, he is thinking of employing a hacker to destroy the blogs and web sites that call him out.

On the other hand he could simply be making a reference to a $10 billion class action suit he had recently claimed to be filing against Facebook for "criminally" deleting his posts (so he says) and censoring him (so he says), and suspending him when people complain about his clear abuse of Facebook's Terms of Service.

Or maybe it's just the bourbon talking again.

* * * * *

In July -- July 27 to be exact -- this Whirled will be one decade old. When I commenced blogging back in July 2006, I never dreamed I would keep it up for ten years, or even for two years. I just decided to start writing and see how it went. As time went by I gained a modest following, though as I've mentioned before I don't spend too much time keeping track of my stats. I'm still just a minor planet in the blogosphere and for the most part I am cool with that, although I would be lying by omission were I not to confess that sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging at all. After all, it's not making me any money (not that I've actually tried that hard to monetize), and the most noteworthy thing it has earned me so far was
a (failed) defamation lawsuit.

But whenever I get an email or comment from someone who read an old post that helped them, or that resonated in some way, it kind of makes me want to keep on blogging. A friend of mine alerted me
to this blog post by Jennifer Garam, that 'splains it pretty well.

When you write something, you never know who it is going to affect, or how it could help someone who’s struggling and feeling alone, or how in a low moment in their life, desperately searching on Google for answers, they will come upon your words when they need them most. And despite what our culture will have us believe—that metrics and stats matter above all else, that the number of clicks tells the whole story—somehow, in some calculation, impacting one human being has got to be worth more than all the unique page views and Shares and Likes in the world.
Yeah. What Jennifer said. At least I will keep telling myself that.

I should note that I don't suffer the why-even-bother blues with my paid writing jobs, which are mostly for-hire and don't have my name on them. (And no, "Big Pharma" is not one of my clients, contrary to the claims of a few idiots.) But I do occasionally have motivational freezes where this blog is concerned. And hearing from fans helps unfreeze me.

I have to admit too that hate mail galvanizes me as much and sometimes even more than fan mail. F'rinstance, in late December 2015 a guy named Andrew Livingston sent me an email telling me I am a dumb c-nt with no integrity, simply because I have indicated that I like the debunking site Snopes. Perhaps he was writing in response
to this August 2015 post about some idiots who believed a hoax article stating that Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson had been arrested, or maybe he saw some of my Facebook posts where I cited a Snopes article in an effort deflate some conspiracy nut's balloon. But his contempt for me, as well as for Snopes, was clear, as was his sense of intellectual and moral superiority -- not to mention his general misogyny and anti-Semitism. I asked his permission to quote him on my blog and he refused; accordingly I am not quoting him, just paraphrasing him. Here is his Facebook page.

More recently I received a private Facebook message from a little troll using a girly avatar, "
Sarah Quick," who seems to be in on some sour-grapes Scamworld plot to discredit former Glancingweb blogger Omri Shabat and frame him for extortion. Sarah began our conversation, such as it is, by calling me a "little social justice warrior," but before the exchange had proceeded very far I was a "libtard c-nt." Those little hater boys do love that c-word, but perhaps that is understandable since saying or writing the word is probably the closest most of them ever get to a vagina. In the course of the exchange, little "Sarah" slammed me for linking to a Mother Jones piece by Kevin Drum, explaining that despite Donald Trump supporters' frequent citing of The Donald's much-lauded business acumen, Trump is in fact a mediocre businessman. "Sarah" taunted me for being a poor broke loser who begs for money on my blog, ignoring the fact that I have never claimed to be rich or "successful," nor do I make a living telling people how to be rich or "successful," so the point is moot. Besides, I don't beg. The donation button is there for those who want to use it, but it -- and I -- am not in-your-face about it.

At any rate it's little hater boys like that who help fuel this blog and give me a reason to keep on blogging. So -- though I know I've said this before -- thank you, hater monkeys!

I'll be back soon with something more substantial. Promise.

PS added 19 January 2016 ~ Bernie at GINtruth welcomes the New Year in with a meaty post about real humanitarians versus selfish-help parasites... plus more about Facebook's attempts to clip the haters' wings, at least in Europe. Among other links he shares this one from the Jerusalem Post. (And if you're confused about the date on this PS versus the date on Bernie's post, remember that Bernie is in Japan, which is many hours ahead of my time.)