Introducing my two favorite con artists
January 23, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
I’d like to introduce you to my two favorite con artists, Mike Albee and Lura Dold of Sandpiper Publicity. Stand up, kids! Don’t be shy. Mike also runs another fake company, Magnus Publicity. Let’s give Mike and Lura a hand!
Mike has a long history of defrauding people. Unfortunately for me I didn’t see this warning or this one when I contacted Sandpiper on June 25, 2013. I’d dumped my first ripoff PR firm that same day, and I’d visited Mom in the nursing home the day before. I wasn’t firing on all cylinders and don’t remember if I researched Sandpiper or not.
Scott Thunes alerted me to Mike and Lura’s fraudulence on January 7, 2014. By that time Mike had cleaned me out. I sent Mike an e-mail telling him that his background had been revealed. He didn’t reply until the next day.
I replied to Mike’s reply.
PayPal said they couldn’t get involved in this. Note to readers: Don’t use PayPal for anything except material items. I’ve learned that the hard way. They won’t help if a service provider defrauds you.
I sent Mike a third message.
Mike never replied, but he took down the Basecamp site. My guess is he’s destroyed all that evidence. I have enough, though. Such as the contract we signed.
Unfortunately for Mike, the screen view of the contract says “Magnus Publicity,” Mike’s other fake company. The PDF of the contract says “Sandpiper Publicity.” So now we’ve tied Mike to two fake companies.
After speaking to several people, I figured that the best course of action wouldn’t be to sue Mike and Lura. Instead, I’d try to make them famous. While $40,000 is a lot of money, it means much more to Mike and Lura than it does to me. I’m sure they’re living far beyond their means.
Initially, I decided to not demand a refund for the search-engine optimization (SEO) work that Mike did on my Website, but then I realized that a lot of that was fraudulent too. For one thing, he told me on the phone on December 11, 2013, that the work would be covered by the $3000 monthly retainer. He knew that Mom was near to death because I’d just written about it.
Mom died October 13, 2013, and on October 14, 2013, Mike sent me an invoice for $2250. I called and asked about it, and Mike said that the Website was much more screwed up than he’d realized. He gave me a long technical explanation, none of which I understood, since I was in a state of PTSD disassociation from Mom’s death.
All I knew was that my Website was a mess, so I paid the invoice. Mike sent a PDF explaining the work they were doing. I didn’t save the PDF because it was available on Basecamp. Now it’s gone, of course. But Mike and Lura sent me a sympathy card after Mom died.
Mike says in an e-mail that he read all my posts. He told me that he read this post to his office, and everyone cried. The post is still accurate. I don’t hate. In fact I don’t even hate Mike and Lura. But since they’re conscienceless predators, they have to be exposed and shut down.
As I said, at first I didn’t count Mike’s SEO work in the money I considered to have been stolen, but I’ve since changed my mind. One reason is that Mike said everything would be finished by December 7, 2013.
Well, here’s a screen shot from today, January 23, 2014. “Awaiting analysis” means that the page hasn’t been optimized. Look at the dates I wrote the pages.
Also, the person “optimizing” my posts rewrote the meta descriptions to include information not in the posts. In this example the SEO “expert” rewrote the meta description to make the reader think that Ghosts and Ballyhoo is about freedom of speech in Hollywood. It isn’t.
Mike installed an SEO plugin called Scribe on my site, which rates each post in numbers from one to 100, visible on the right. Yellow is bad, green is good. His SEO “experts” only analyzed each post. Scribe offers suggestions for improvement from yellow to green. Mike or his people never bothered to make those improvements. These are technical issues that I don’t understand, so I can’t improve the posts myself.
Why was I being billed $2250 a month? The posts were supposed to be optimized. The Scribe plugin explains exactly how to optimize the post, but it includes things like adding meta tags to photos and tags to HTML descriptions. Gibberish. The people I were paying to do this work simply didn’t do it. I didn’t catch on because I was fighting off PTSD attacks, and Mike and Lura were constantly telling me how wonderful, brave, and lovely I was.
Mike slipped up on a number of occasions. In this message he admits that the head of his “SEO Department” isn’t used to working with authors.
A book publicity firm has an SEO Department whose chief isn’t used to working with authors? The SEO “expert” had told me that my name and the name of the book had to make up 3 percent of all the words in every post. That meant that in a nine-hundred-word post, I had to mention my name and/or Ghosts and Ballyhoo twenty-seven times. It was the stupidest advice I’d ever heard. But if you check the dates of my “News” posts,” you’ll see—as Mike and Lura did—that I was approaching a breakdown, which happened on October 28, 2013.
I wrote about it the next day. This post—about being forced to take part in three suicides—was fodder for Mike and Lura to squeeze more cash out of me.
Mike told me he had a brilliant graphics team that would make the ad he recommended I buy in a music magazine. Here’s the end result.
It’s a hideous piece of shit. But they waited until two days before the due date and then pressured me to accept it. I had to take the background photo myself. Mike also flat-out lied about his ever-bigger PR coups. Note the date on this message. According to Mike, he’d have an update for me in three days.
Mike found out I listened to Coast to Coast AM by reading my blog the day I had a mental collapse. He read my description of the worst day of my life, and it gave him an idea for how to keep me on the hook longer. Unimaginable suffering inspired another way of extending the scam. Mike told me that his “contact” at Coast asked for my press kit; after the above message, I heard no more about it, even though I stayed with Sandpiper for another month.
Around the same time, Mike also told me that he was going to fly down to LA to meet with the station manager of KFI AM 640 to pitch me. He didn’t, of course. I’ve got that e-mail. What he actually did was pitch me to the head of the KFI news department. Seriously.
One night my admin Website was hacked. A post disappeared. Also, I was sent a vaguely worded threat. Since I’ve had stalkers and gotten death threats, I contacted Mike and described in detail my history and the circumstances of my birth. I thought the hacking and threats had to do with that. Mike told me nobody had hacked my site and that he’d find out from the hosting company why the post had disappeared. He never got back to me about that.
The reason I told him everything was because I trusted him, I thought he was on my side, and I thought that someone was gearing up for another round of mayhem. So Mike knows everything. I fully expect that it’ll all come out.
If and when anyone asks me about this, I won’t comment. My history and traumatic past are not for public consumption. The entire purpose of writing Ghosts and Ballyhoo was to show how trauma can be overcome. Mike Albee and Lura Dold chose to add to my trauma. They tried to demolish the tiny life I’d built for myself out of the absolute wreckage of my family, childhood, and nearly universal failures.
That’s fine. Mike and Lura didn’t succeed. And now I’m exposing them for the crooks and merciless predators they are. They reassured me that they’d shield me from further harm, and they expressed sympathy and admiration for my refusal to give up, while the whole time they plotted how to take advantage of the brutal hand I’ve been dealt.
The real failures here are Mike Albee and Lura Dold. In seven months, they got me one newspaper interview, one magazine interview, three radio interviews of ten to twenty minutes each, and three book reviews. Mike Albee touts his personal contacts and his list of “20,000 independent reviewers.” The only sort of person who could fall for such a scam was someone enduring the daily torture of his parents’ suicides. That was me.
Mike Albee is a liar and a fraud. He was able to scam me for as long as he did because the year 2013 was a tsunami of pain and endless assaults. Nobody could’ve gone through what Tim and I did while maintaining an even keel. It’s not possible to describe seeing your parents degrade themselves into crying, terrified, naked, vomiting, defecating open wounds that beg for your help and push you away. And it went on from January 16 to October 13, 2013.
While Tim and I fought to save our parents and keep our sanity—while we uncomplainingly showed mercy to our tragic, sinful, destructive parents—Mike Albee and Lura Dold struck, using my blog posts and my books as manuals. They were successful only while I was completely out of my mind with horror. Now that Mom and Dad are dead, I’m back to the man I was before January 16, 2013.
As an example of how befuddled I was, Mike and Lura were able to double bill me three times without me noticing. The invoices came on the 4th and 22nd of each month, just far enough apart that I’d forgotten I’d paid the last one. Looking over the double invoices now that I’m no longer fighting off PTSD, I see that one is for Ghosts and Ballyhoo and another is for Chasing the Last Whale. That’s how Mike and Lura will rationalize it.
One problem: I never signed a contract for marketing Chasing the Last Whale separately. In fact, Mike clearly led me to believe that the Ghosts Trilogy would be marketed as one project. The monthly retainer was for publicizing me, not my individual books. If everything was above board, why did one invoice come on the 4th of each month and one come on the 22nd?
What Mike and Lura did was keep pushing to see how much they could get away with. They got away with plenty. But that was then, and this is now.
Here’s Lura Dold. Isn’t she cute?
I haven’t been able to find any photos of Mike, but he sounds just like George Zimmer of the Men’s Wearhouse.
Thus begins my publicity campaign, Mike and Lura. I’ll do my best to make you famous.
And for everyone else, trust but verify. I can’t say that enough. There are animals in human form out there, and they have no morals, scruples, or empathy whatsoever. They can’t be reached. All we can do is stop them.
Wow. Already getting results. Someone just sent me a photo of Lura and Mike on their wedding day.
Nice to see you, cuddlebugs. I hope you enjoyed your special day.
May you have many more special days.
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