Dear Mr. Berko: I’ve been given the opportunity to invest in Treasure Investments Corp. by CEO Mark Russo. The investment consists of buying stock at 20 cents a share with a minimum investment of $25,000. The goal is to raise $10 million. The strategic plan is taking the company public in the fall of 2018 for $3 to $5 a share.
The pitch is that TIC has entered into a contract with Lorenzo Ghiglieri, a world-famous artist, to purchase all of his estate’s assets. This estate purchase includes exclusive reproduction rights for all of his original paintings, numbering over 5,500. It also includes 70,000 original pencil and ink renderings, 595 bronze images and original master molds for reproduction. Mark claims that TIC owns over 200 bronze casting molds he has purchased over the past 25 years, molds that an independent appraiser at the National Institute for Art valued in 2013 at $953 million. He said he even purchased some molds from the Vatican. Of the 595 bronze images from Ghiglieri, most have never been seen or taken to market. They are his “Legacy Collection,” and TIC values them at over $2 billion. TIC also shows unencumbered assets of over $1 billion in physical inventory and master molds.
The way TIC will make money is to “donate” these bronzes to charitable organizations, which in turn will sell these art pieces at fundraiser auctions. The cost to TIC will be in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $1,500, depending on the size of the bronze. TIC will make money by splitting the money from the sale of the items with the charitable organization. Some of the strategic alliance partners listed in the brochure include the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Cancer Society, the Boy Scouts of America, the American Red Cross and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
TIC has its own foundries in Estacada and Aurora, Ore., and uses foundries in California and elsewhere.
Mark claims there is no competition to the “donate to charity” market, that this market is a $100 billion-a-year market and that there are over 11,000 charitable auctions each week in the USA. This brochure claims that since 1998, over 50,000 Ghiglieri sculptures have sold at charity auctions, generating tens of millions of dollars.
Of course, all this sounds too good to be true and has all my red flags popping up, saying BEWARE! SCAM! If you could tell me anything about this company and the legitimacy of what it is selling, I would be very appreciative. I asked Mark why he is looking for $10 million from investors when he’s worth hundreds of millions himself. He says he wants to share with others an opportunity to get involved with art and make a lot of money. Hmm!
— Jim Bob, Portland
Dear Jim Bob: I’ve never heard of Mark Russo, but thanks for the good laughs and delightful entertainment this morning.
“There’s a sucker born every minute,” P.T. Barnum is said to have declared, and there’s a con artist born every minute to make sure no sucker is spared. And my dad used to say, “The bigger the lie the likelier it is to be believed.” Lorenzo must be an immensely prolific artist to have produced over 70,000 pencil and ink renderings, 5,500 paintings and all those bronze sculptures. During 50 years of work (which is about 18,250 days), that translates to about 4.2 completed pieces of art during every one of those days. That’s a lot of completing.
I can appreciate Lorenzo’s work; however, I’ve never heard of an outfit called the National Institute for Art, and I’m gabberflasted at its $953 million valuation of Lorenzo’s 200 bronze casting molds. I wonder what Lorenzo is thinking about all of this. He lives in your area, so why don’t you ask him? Meanwhile, keep your checkbook closed.