Clayton Morris, the former Fox & Friends host turned real estate investment “expert,” is the subject of multiple lawsuits and complaints to attorneys general alleging that Morris deceived real estate purchasers he was supposedly helping to find financial freedom.
According to The New York Times, Morris already had a popular real estate investing podcast when he left the show and became a full-time real estate adviser with his wife, Natali.
Their plan was to connect mom-and-pop investors with turnkey investment homes in Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., and several other cities. Their company, Morris Invest, would handle the details: finding properties, overseeing renovations, hiring property managers to rent out the houses. All clients had to do was put up the cash and wait for the checks to arrive.
As the Indianapolis Star noted,Morris Invest was involved in “hundreds of property transactions in Indianapolis.”
But in his wake is a trail of disgruntled investors, tenants living in deplorable conditions and dilapidated Indianapolis homes that could plague the city for years.
While Morris lives in a $1.45 million luxury home in New Jersey, some investors who thought they were buying turn-key rentals are saddled with boarded up hovels, empty lots, stacks of health and nuisance violations from the city and lost savings.
Morris is the target of at least five lawsuits filed by out-of-state investors who claim he defrauded them in transactions involving dozens of properties. The lawsuits are pending in Marion Superior Court and federal court in Indianapolis. Many others have complained to attorney general offices in Indiana and New Jersey, and on consumer and real estate investment websites.
As the complaints piled up, Morris – you guessed it – played the victim. From The Times:
“We were a victim, too,” Mr. Morris, 42, said during an interview with his wife at a coffee shop near their suburban New Jersey home.
The couple said they had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on homes that they and their relatives bought from a property-management company that was one of their business partners in Indianapolis. The company, Oceanpointe Investments, was the seller of the homes the Morrises’ clients bought, and, according to the couple, it was supposed to do the renovations and manage the properties.
The Morrises said that Oceanpointe, which many Morris Invest clients said they had never heard of until after buying the homes, is the real villain and liable for any damages. Few, if any, problems have arisen in other cities, they said. Oceanpointe blames the Morrises, saying they are responsible for the promises made to investors.
Even if the Morrises are truly victims, they seem to take no responsibility for holding themselves up as experts who somehow put trusting, unseasoned investors into the hands of a company not to be trusted.
Today, The Times reports, the Morrises have “largely” abandoned deals in Indianapolis but still sell properties in Detroit, “largely without the kind of complaints they face in Indianapolis.” But the couple also have a new venture: an online financial course that offers a “proven system for building wealth, guaranteed.” You can purchase it for a special introductory rate of $697.
I highly recommend the Indianapolis Star's deep dive, via USA Today, into the transactions. Let's just say you'll probably want to hold onto your $697 for something else.
(H/T Headly Westerfield, of NotNowSilly.com)
(Morris image via screen grab)