TAMPA - Marketing insider websites call him the "Cash For Gold King." Trent Silver is the Tampa teen who built a million-dollar business out of nothing. But the I-Team found he's also left a trail of nearly 1,000 furious customers asking for refunds.
Diane Stein is one of them. She's a writer from St. Petersburg. She says she lost much of her business when the recession started, so she mailed her gold jewelry to Prestige Gold Buyers to help pay the bills.
"Nothing came, and nothing came, and nothing was returned. After a month, I called the company, and they said they haven't gotten it yet," Stein said.
The I-Team found more than 200 customers complained to the Better Business Bureau and the Florida Attorney General's office. The BBB says it's the second largest stack of complaints they've ever received for a mail-in cash for gold business.
"There is a pattern in the complaints that we received that demonstrate an ethical failure by the business," said John Zajac of the Better Business Bureau.
The complaints are all aimed at 3 mail-in gold businesses: Prestige Gold Buyers, Goldster, and SendGoldGetCash. The person behind those three businesses is barely old enough to drink. Trent Silver was just 18 when he started his cash for gold business. Today, he's 21.
The website "Performance Marketing Insider" praised him in an article in March, saying he went from "teenager to millionaire in two years."
I-Team investigator Michael George spoke to Silver and he agreed to answer questions about Diane Stein and the hundreds of other unsatisfied customers.
"What went wrong?" George asked.
"It was me, handling 30,000 leads at one time. Trying to send checks back and forth and take phone calls," Silver said.
Silver said he wasn't trying to stiff people. He says he was too young and inexperienced to handle so many customers.
"I thought I was going to be the next big gold buyer. I was a little overwhelmed," he said.
We asked him what he wanted to say to the customers who complained.
"Just e-mail me and I'll do 100 percent to get a refund to everyone that deserves it," he replied.
The Attorney General investigated Silver and he agreed to provide refunds to customers and shut down his cash for gold businesses as part of the settlement. So far, he's provided refunds to 944 customers.
He told us he's got a new business idea.
"I'm moving into cash for phones," Silver said.
"How is this going to be different than cash for gold?" George asked.
"One customer at a time. Instead of getting 30,000 leads in a weekend, 30 leads," Silver said.
After our interview, Silver called us back. He wanted to apologize to the people he wronged.
"I take responsibility for messing it up. I just want to be an upstanding citizen here," Silver said.
He said in addition to cash for phones, he is expanding his business into marketing, payday loans, and other online businesses. He says he is focusing on the marketing side of things, and doesn't plan to make the same mistakes.
He also claims he'll end up losing money as a result of paying back unsatisfied customers. For now, he lives in his father's home in a gated subdivision and drives a BMW.
Diane Stein says she's had to fight for 8 months just to get a check for $125. She was angry to learn Silver plans to start a similar business.
"He apparently has some great business capability, but he needs to learn some ethics," Stein said.
The Attorney General has ordered Trent Silver to provide refunds to customers as long as they submit their claim by December 31, 2012. Silver told us in our interview that he would honor refund requests even after that date.
If you are a customer of Prestige Gold Buyers, Goldster, or SendGoldGetCash and you feel you are owed a refund, send your request request, along with proof of your claim, to firstname.lastname@example.org or Trent@BlastOffers.com . You can also mail it to:
- Regulatory Compliance Department C/O RHB
- 100 West Cypress Creek Road, Suite 700
- Ft.Lauderdale, FL, 33309
You can also file a complaint at: http://myfloridalegal.com/Contact.nsf/Contact