The proliferation of sham PR agencies is a mounting concern nowadays. These firms, masquerading as reputable providers of PR services, frequently lack the necessary skill set or acumen to excel in the industry. Despite their glaring deficiencies, these con artists are still able to dupe unsuspecting clients into shelling out exorbitant sums of money. As a result, it falls upon investigative journalists to shed light on these fraudulent outfits and expose them for the charlatans they truly are.
In some cases, these fake PR agencies may even go so far as to fabricate press releases and news stories to promote their clients’ businesses, further perpetuating a culture of deception and misinformation. In this extension of our previous article, Lira Brothers and the Fraudulent PR Agency of Empathy Firm we will delve deeper into the world of fake PR agencies, exploring masterminds behind the curtains & their tactics to lure in unsuspecting clients and their actions’ impact on the public and the media industry as a whole.
Dave Valentine is another mastermind in the world of fake PR, claiming to be running seven different agencies and having stakes in a few of them but unlike when we talked to one of the companies he was able to trick into giving him control— Empathy Firm– and have Lira brothers on record saying that Dave doesn’t own seven companies and doesn’t have any money. Yet there are several podcasts with Dave Valentine making boastful claims.
Seven businesses that he constantly boasts about, yet In several of his podcasts and PR articles, he didn’t mention anything other than Avadel. There are two different companies which are VHS Design Company, Fly Valentine, which he has a connection based on this podcast. Even in the same video, he has another plaque on the wall behind him that has Empathy written on it with the same logo as the fraudulent agency of the Lira brothers, the Empathy Firm whom we exposed previously.
When you look at the first company (a web design company that guarantees sales within five days of the site going up), you see a $20,000 package offering SEO. If you look at the SEO power of this agency offering SEO services, this is what you get (attached, for zeros across the board).
Fly Valentine looks just as fake (see the screenshot showing zero SEO power and zero traffic to the site).
Gavin Lira said that Dave Valentine put $0 into his company in exchange for mentorship in scaling more 7 figure agencies. We can see that these “companies” are clients of each other– with Dave’s fake PR bought by Gavin and the “seen on Forbes” logo plastered across all these sites. Of course, most of these “as seen on” mentions can be bought for under $100, as I demonstrated last week via another honest PR vendor that is truthful about the bought PR they provide.
We decided to connect Andy Valentine (Fly Valentine) with David (it seems he would be the brother) to see its worth. Per Facebook, they are connected. They’re both in Fort Worth, TX – and we can see that Andy lists himself as Director of Business Development at Avadel (Dave’s company that guarantees booked appointments). His LinkedIn page also showed him working under the same title as the defunct Rethink Creative, one of many failed shell agencies put up by Dave Valentine.
There’s nothing we saw that suggests any sketchiness on his part. However, it is interesting to have a family member in a completely different industry working in a marketing / creative space.
Gavin, the founder of the fraud company, the Empathy Firm, confessed that Dave controls his company, where the founder must run all decisions by him.
Yet this company is going under because the Empathy Firm has to employ one of Dave’s friends, even though the firm cannot afford it, and the founder has to live at home, taking zero pay. Gavin mentioned the 35% ownership and control of all decisions until the company hits $2.5MM ARR.
You might have seen the billboards in Arizona of bearded man in a ripped up suit with photoshop-enhanced tattoos swinging a sledgehammer, but If you’ve ever spoken with Byron Browne, the so called “anti-lawyer”, you might know that his demeanor is as unprofessional as his appearance.
I recently received a summons from his firm on behalf of a desperate and broke client who stayed at my house paying what she could (eventually for free) with her adult daughters and dogs who claims that my dog, a blue heeler bit and bruised her thigh.
While that dog has never bitten anyone and I plan to contest this claim, I called Byron to ask how much the damages sought amounted to since he failed to list it in the filing or issue a demand letter.
His firm must be relatively small since he answered the phone himself, so maybe business is slow over at the Browne Law Group. First he told me that my insurance needs to pay this but when I explained that I am a renter and do not have homeowners insurance, he became really aggressive.
I asked him if he could contact the homeowners insurance and he responded with “You don’t tell me what to do. I’m a lawyer, and I tell YOU what to do. What do you do for a living?” Followed by “You better find some insurance to get out from under this or I will get a judgement against you directly.” and presumably seize my 1997 car.
I explained that I understand he is doing his job and there is no reason to make things personal to which he childishly retorted “you made this personal, bigmouth motherfucker” I replied “Thank you for your time” and got off the phone.
I sense a very desperate law firm headed by an idiot bully going for the lowest hanging fruit on a dead tree. If they could get real cases, they probably wouldn’t be pursuing a thousand-dollar dog bite claim from mid 2020, almost two years ago. Maybe if they win this one, they might make five figures this year and Byron can afford to finish coloring in his sleeve.
The dumbest thing about his actions are that I was calling to figure out how to settle the case, saving them time and money, and most importantly: getting his client the money she wants! Of course Byrons pride got in the way. He needs to show everyone how tough and dumb he is, because he is NOT a lawyer.. he is a big strong thug [who loses cases].
I understand that he wants his image to appeal to the uneducated and low income clients but no matter who you are, or how little you can afford you NEED a professional lawyer for your case. Not one who wears wife beaters to meetings and court appointments according to this yelp review by a former client Sarah N. who fired him.
In this episode of the Coach Yu Show, Marcelo Bermann shares his story of how serial scammer Aaron Gobidas backed out of a contract after he’d received the payment.
Marcello has been painting for 51 years. He started out in Boston in 1971, and has been serving the San Diego community since 1992. You can find him at bestsandiegohousepainting.com
Like so many expert tradesmen, Marcelo needed help with his website and SEO. He used a business bartering side, BizX, and stumbled upon Aaron Gobidas and GoBeRewarded. Unfortunately, he was left with an empty wallet and no website.
Aaron Gobidas is a great salesman.
“He reminds me of some of these people that are on speed and they can read your mind and they tell you everything that you want to hear. The one thing is he insisted that I drive up to Oceanside, which I did not understand.”
“But in any event, I drove up to Oceanside. It’s a long drive. There’s a lot of traffic. He wanted to show off his place. I’m familiar with the area I used to live in Oceanside.”
“And he did a presentation meeting where there are a couple of women there. One of them was constantly on her smartphone. The other one was somewhat present. They really didn’t know much about the subject. He also had another guy there. I guess he wanted to impress me with the staff, you know, that was on their hand and the plans where he had the thing.”
“And one of his selling points was that his dad had been, I think, a curtain installer, like on windows and, and that, you know, he knew how being a specialized business with a particular gift that he would know how to present me to the world so that I would get the right kind of clientele and, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
“He was very convincing and everything. He did like an hour long presentation with maybe even videos and a whiteboard and so on. Basically, he wanted $2,500 to redo my website and he was going to do a super-duper thing. He was going to have some staff that was going to do some video. So he was going to do a shoot as well as, and they were going to come out on site and, you know, and, uh, shoot while I was working.”
“So it was going to be a very comprehensive, well mounted, professional website.”
Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t.
There was some confusion over hosting and eventually GoBeRewarded backed out of their contract with Marcelo, keeping the money. Truth is, Marcelo fell for a nicely packaged scam.
Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than you’d expect.
There are a ton of agencies out there who will promise you the moon, but in reality they lack expertise.
So when you see a scammer like Aaron Gobidas try to take your money and try to make all these promises and tell you all these stories. But then you start asking questions and then things kind of start changing, that’s when you know that you have an issue.
So to Marcelo’s point never pay the whole thing up front. Always check out the reviews. You should go Google, Aaron and see what shows up on the first page for his name. And if he’s good at SEO, then those horrible things about him are not going to show up on his name, right?
My expertise is in SEO. My advice for everyone out there is that SEO is completely measurable.
It can be hard to find someone you trust. But if you start getting a bad feeling about someone or an agency, if they can’t answer your questions clearly, or they seem to be using a lot of jargon, take it as a red flag. Trust your gut.
I paid him a retainer up front and you can see what happened here.
He didn’t get around to advising us, but did review some initial documents before deciding he didn’t want to take the case.
We gave him an opportunity to make things right, but he preferred to pocket the money.
So that’s why you see the honest reviews from me and past clients online.
Instead of fixing his mistake, he sent a serious of angry, emotional letters threatening legal action.
I’m not a lawyer, but if I was Durbano Law Firm, I’d just refund the $1,000 instead of desperately trying to hold onto the money while sending these letters. I’d imagine if his time is $400 an hour, he’s burned a few thousand dollars already.
This is John Keiter’s letter to me:
I would have refunded the retainer and said, “Sorry we didn’t get to work together– best of luck.”
To his defense, he did consider returning the funds. But he doubted whether we would see this through.
John– this is your proof that we follow through on promises.
If you don’t want people to see what you’ve done, it’s not too late to fix it. But at this point, I’m not going to write a bunch of 5 star reviews, as you insisted.
That would be unethical, Mr. Keiter.
And we want people to see how Durbano Law Firm in Utah operates.
On January 11th, 2020, I purchased a Lyme Disease test kit, under the recommendation of a business partner.It was for a friend who was struggling with mental health and we were told that he probably had Lyme Disease and other parasites.
So I paid $650 for a test kit.But before we could use it, my friend become incapacitated and left the state.
I asked them if they could issue a refund, since we didn’t use it. I understand they need to make money.
But at the same time, when I order a test for a friend, who later is incapacitated and unable to take the test, they should consider a partial refund.
Especially since we didn’t take the test, which means they didn’t process it or undergo any work.
I had escalated this through multiple levels in DNA Connections. For example, Dr. Leslie Douglas acknowledged this would affect the integrity of their business, but didn’t care: DNA Connexions Administrative Team (888) 843-5832 email@example.com
Their CEO, Blanche Grube, provide the same answer.
And Blanche said she was pocketing all $650 of this Lyme disease test.
That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think, especially when times are tough?
Even if they don’t want to refund me, it’s important that other consumers are aware of their practices.So I wrote this as a warning in the hopes that I’m able to save someone else some grief.
That’s the justification I got from a former partner who robbed me blind— stealing a client and the truck I bought him to not leave us.
It takes 5 years to truly get to know someone— if they merely say what is convenient for them versus establishing a track record of doing what they say they will do.
Digital and social is a fast and loose game that knocks you off balance if you’re not vigilant.
Today, I saw an article in Entrepeneur about how most followers and engagement are fake— bought for pennies each. And then the bulk of that article goes on to overly promote a company with a tool that supposedly detects fake followers.
Yet this company likely paid to place this article— the irony.
The next breathless claim of instant success via “secrets” you must sign up for to get— remember what’s real.
Same clown, different circus.
You’d think that with data now so easy to retrieve, facts so easy to verify, that there would be fewer scams.
It actually works the other way around- the charlatans believe there are more places to hide and an infinite mass of people to scam.
So build fewer, high quality relationships— not more.
Connect with people in-person, not just online— which means you must say NO to more things, even which seem promising.
Slicing that same large pizza into 32 slices instead of 8 slices doesn’t yield you 4 times more pizza- and neither will spreading your time across more people and projects.
The friends in my life from 5+ years ago are more valuable to me than people I met last week— since they’ve vetted themselves.
And my 10+ year friends are pure gold— though I’m often distracted by the shiny things that turn out to be fools gold.
The expensive lesson I’m still learning- trust, but verify. The bird in the hand is worth more than 2 in the bush.
When you’re in a hurry, you’ll make mistakes.
“Con man” is short for “confidence man” because they know how to play to your fears and generate trust.
Digital isn’t enlarging the world- it’s making it smaller. Focus your energy in the few proven places that matter, resist the scatter.