Lawyer Ron Usher shows off some of the ads from At Will Events.
Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost , PROVINCE
Between ads that don’t add up and purported real estate deals that don’t seem real, a local lawyer is raising questions about the advertising of a company hosting a real estate workshop in Vancouver this weekend.
The founder of the company, meanwhile, acknowledged they had made mistakes in their advertising, but said the results are real.
Over the last five years, Vancouver lawyer Ron Usher has been researching the advertising from At Will Events, and says he has found curious inconsistencies and discrepancies in the ads.
At Will Events is hosting a three-day “training workshop” this weekend in the Vancouver area, and according to the registration form, it costs $7,000 to attend. The workshop purports to show Canadians how to make money by investing in American real estate, and At Will hosts similar events in cities across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.
Usher has reviewed years of At Will’s advertising, which includes claims of deals made and personal testimonials about the successes of former students. Usher tried to corroborate some of the information by digging in American property records and court filings, and he shared his research with The Province.
When presented with inconsistencies in the At Will advertising, the company’s founder Marco Kozlowski said they had made mistakes in their advertising, but said the program has helped people.
Several At Will advertisements prominently feature a cheque for $150,329.92, in one case featuring the text: “150K+ profit first deal!”
In different ads over the years, the photos and names of at least three different people appear with the same cheque, purporting to have been successful former students of At Will’s real estate training: a woman from Mississauga, Ont., a man from Gatineau, Que, and a woman from Ottawa.
Usher tracked down the owner of the company listed on the cheque, and contacted her. The cheque and its subject line, Usher learned, corresponded to the real sale of a real property in Florida.
But when Usher spoke to the realtor who conducted the deal in 2014, she told him that neither Kozlowski, At Will Events, nor any of the purported former students had anything to do with the deal.
The Province spoke with that woman, a realtor based in Florida, and shared the ad featuring the cheque with her. She confirmed the cheque was hers and was real, but said: “I am not familiar with At Will Events or Marco Kozlowski and they were not involved in the purchase or sale of this property. I do not know who they are affiliated with, but am unaware of any other way they could have been involved with this transaction.”
When asked about the 2014 ad featuring the cheque, Kozlowski initially said it represented a deal his student had closed, but when asked again, he said: “We put the wrong face with the wrong cheque. That was a marketing error on our side.”
He said they pulled the ad when they realized the mistake. Canadian advertising featuring the cheque ran as recently as last month.
Kozlowski shared a more recent ad with The Province, which featured photos of two properties under banners saying $31,000 and $78,000 US “positive cash-flow annually,” with text underneath referencing: “this 4 unit N. Carolina Quadplex” and “this 18 unit Texas Apartment.”
The Province spoke with the owner of one of the properties pictured, a Florida man named Doug Gale, who said in an email: “the alleged 4-plex in N. Carolina is actually my property in Orlando, FL ... I have owned this property since 2006, so it is not possible that his investors/clients have done a deal on this property in the past 9 years. I don’t recall ever dealing with a Mr. Kozlowski and the name Marco Kozlowski does not come up in searches of my email accounts.”
Gale told The Province he did not want his property involved in this advertising.
When asked about the properties in the new ads, Kozlowski said in an email: “If you read the headline — its ‘how have people closed properties LIKE THESE’ not these are the properties they have closed.”
He said it was possible “the marketing team used a pic to reflect the headline as a literary license.”
He said in an email: “I’m human — and I make mistakes — as does my team — please talk to my students that actually do the work, and they will attest to the strength of what I do.”
Usher, the lawyer, said: “Each time I’ve been able to get something specific enough that it can be confirmed by third party sources, usually government websites in the United states, it never lines up. That’s really my concern is why we’re not getting the straight goods?”
Usher has attended a handful of At Will’s free seminars over the last five years, and says: “All these improbabilities add up, but I go to these meetings and I see people getting very excited about it.”
Usher said he plans to go the site of this weekend’s At Will event, and share the results of his research with the paying guests.
“I want people to make an informed choice before they get involved,” he said.