I am updating this article as the subject matter develops. Updates are at the bottom of this article!
It’s been about a year since I first reported on a phone call I received from “JJ Pierce” from Flat Stone Capital. Since then, I’ve received comments and emails from a couple dozen people who have been taken in or nearly taken in by her scam.
If you don’t know how the scam works, I’ve written more about it here. In the last year we’ve learned that “JJ” is Helen Joanne Pearce of Kissimmee, FL.
A couple weeks ago I heard from yet another victim of one of Helen’s scams, who introduced himself as “Doug” in the comments here on my blog. I’ve heard from a lot of victims and they all discover the same thing: You can’t find Helen to serve any papers to her. The best you’re going to do is get a small claims judgment, which will never be enforced. You’ll just be out more money and you’ll have no satisfaction.
That didn’t sit well with Doug.
Doug is a retired criminal investigator who has worked for various branches of government. He has taken the information I’ve posted here and developed a more detailed picture of Helen’s activities and associates.
Helen is currently operating two companies: FSC Endeavors LLC, where she is known as Ferin Caffrey, and RFH FL, Inc., where she goes by Reagan Fields. FSC Endeavors LLC claims to be in Jacksonville, FL, but they don’t publish an address at their website. The Florida Department of State lists the address of FSC Endeavors LLC as 221 N Hogan St, which is a UPS Store. Their website domain name is registered to Eric Pearce (Helen’s husband), who lists the address of another UPS Store as his address. Eric’s email address is listed as “redfieldholdings@…” in his whois record. Redfield Holdings is one of the companies I’ve mentioned before. The State of Florida lists Redfield Holdings LLC as being owned by JJ Pearce at an address that is a UPS Store.
RFH FL, Inc. is said to be located in Tampa. The State of Florida has their address as 701 S Howard Ave, which is a UPS Store. They got smart and registered their domain name using GoDaddy’s “Domains By Proxy” service, which hides the owner. But the website itself shares a lot of content with Helen’s past sites.
Doug is out several thousand dollars in promised payments from Helen (aka Ferin Caffrey). While many people have sued (unsuccessfully) to get their money, Doug is taking a different approach. Helen is committing fraud, so Doug is going for the criminal charges, not unenforceable small claims actions.
Doug started by filing a report with his local police for theft by fraud. This establishes a number of facts and is the beginning of a paper trail that will be important to finding Matt and Helen and getting a conviction.
Doug has contacted a number of government and law enforcement agencies to make them aware of Helen’s activities. He has also contacted various companies that Helen uses in her scam. I believe his goal is to make it more difficult for Helen to scam others in the same way.
Doug has been collecting documentation from court cases in Florida, Texas, and anywhere else that these lead. This will be useful in convincing investigators for various government agencies and private companies that this scam is for real. I have contacted everyone who posted comments here on my blog to get their permission to provide contact information to Doug so he can collect any details they can add.
It’s been a busy week for Doug. He and I have exchanged a lot of email and spoken on the phone a couple times. Doug has a lot of experience chasing people like Helen and Matt. Like cockroaches, when the lights come on, they will scatter. They will either run to family and friends to hide or they will double down and try to raise more money from their scams.
So Doug’s first step has been to poison Matt and Helen’s hiding places. Doug has contacted Matt and Helen’s families and has told them everything that is going on. He doesn’t want the family to inadvertently aid and abet Helen if she is looking for a place to hide from authorities. Instead, he wants family and friends to be encouraging Helen to turn herself in. In order for that to happen, they had to know what was going on, even if it was painful.
In order to help us find any new companies and aliases Helen might create in the future, I’ve written a program I call Cockroach Tracker that monitors certain publicly available data and alerts me of suspicious activity.
Last night I was contacted by an anonymous victim of Helen’s scam who pointed me to www.fscehomes.com. When I went to the website I found that Helen had listed homes she had for rent/sale in five or six cities around the US, including Berea, KY and Peoria, AZ. I notified Doug and simultaneously replied to the victim to get more information.
Doug began calling the homeowners who were listed at the site. He talked to the first homeowner (who was very disappointed to hear the truth about Helen, whom she knows as “Ferin”), and within minutes we noticed that the website had been updated to remove the list of addresses. Not, however, before we captured all of them. Doug is working his way down this list this morning.
The anonymous victim said that “Ferin” wanted him to pay by PayPal. This might sound like a good idea to Helen but PayPal can be nasty when you involve them in fraud. They can lock down your account so you can’t get any money. And if you’ve connected PayPal to your bank account, they can reach into your account and take back anything they think you may have received fraudulently without so much as a how-do-you-do. We noticed after Doug started calling victims that the PayPal link was gone, too.
As Doug contacts Helen’s victims he finds that not everyone believes they’ve been had. They may have had their lawyer look at the contract, and he told them it was solid. What their lawyer didn’t know was that the person signing (in this case, Ferin Caffrey) does not exist. “Ferin Caffrey” is a made-up name used by Helen Joanne Pearce. Do a people-search on a site like intelius.com or peoplesmart.com: There is no person in the United States of America named “Ferin Caffrey”.
Was your down-payment late? Have you had late rent payments, or no rent payments? Did someone move into your home before you knew they were coming? Are you getting paid in Western Union money orders printed at Publix supermarkets? Is “Ferin” hard to get ahold of, or has she said it’s better to contact her by email? Is the company she claims to be with registered with the Florida Department of State using an address that Google says is a UPS Store?
If your answer to most of these questions is “yes”, you’re a victim of Helen’s scam. Your contract is probably invalid and you have squatters in your home. They’re victims, too. If you need someone to talk to about this, contact me through the comments. Comments are moderated so they won’t be posted to the site if you ask me not to.
Update: February 13, 2015
A lot has been happening in the last two weeks. We have finally found a home address for Matt and Helen that wasn’t a UPS Store. Doug now has a sequence of addresses for Helen over time that lead from her home in Chickasha, OK to her present address in central Florida. Our researcher Tristan discovered Matt’s Twitter feed, where we found uploads of his jogging route from a couple years ago, which often begins and ends right at the front door of their house. The same feed has a picture of Matt standing in front of the house, which matches the appearance of the house on Google Street View. Doug has talked to people who know Helen, and who confirm that Matt and Helen do live at that address.
In the process of all this we’ve uncovered some serious flaws in the way the Florida Department of State validates the identity and addresses of registered agents of new LLCs and corporations. That is, they don’t validate them. You can literally form a corporation in Florida using a completely made-up name and address, and they will take your registration fee and issue a Certificate of Existence. Instant validity. It’s like they’re in the business of printing fake ID’s. In the process, they become, in my opinion, accessories to any felonies committed by those corporations, especially when establishing credibility and trust is an important part of their crimes. We’ve found both sympathetic ears and obstinate denial in the Division of Corporations. We’re hoping that shining a light on these flaws will get them repaired and reduce the ease with which this kind of scam can be operated in Florida.
I believe Helen is operating a new company out of New York: River Financial Horizons, which is registered as River F Horizons LLC, 369 Lexington Ave, NY, NY. Her new name there is Karen River. Needless to say, there is no known human being in the country with the name “Karen River”. Rivers? Yes. Rivera? Yes. River? No.
Doug has been contacted by local media in Orlando. We may see something about Helen on TV in the future.
Helen has stepped in it now. She’s filed for some kind of injunction against Doug on the basis of “cyber-stalking” and “slander”. Of course the judge found no basis for any kind of injunction in the complaint, so she’s set a hearing, which Helen will not show up for, and will thus lose.
The important thing in all this has nothing to do with Helen’s charges and the upcoming hearing. It has everything to do with Helen’s sworn statement in filing this document. In it, she claims that FSCEHomes.com is her website. She further explains that Doug is undermining her business by convincing certain others to break their contracts with her.
But FSCEHomes.com is Ferin Caffrey’s website. The people cited in Helen’s complaint have have contracts with Ferin Caffrey, not Helen Pearce. Helen has thus confessed to the court that she is operating under the alias of Ferin Caffrey. Furthermore, the non-existent person Ferin Caffrey registered the company FSC Endeavors LLC with the State of Florida using a UPS Store as both its principal address and registered office. Helen has confessed to the court that she illegally registered an LLC in Florida using both a false name and an improper address. Matt’s name was on the domain registration for FSC Endeavors LLC until he put it under Go Daddy’s Domains by Proxy protection to hide it. Thus Matt and Helen are both implicated in this felonious activity.
The Better Business Bureau changed FSC Endeavors’ rating to F and issued a fraud alert. You can read the page here. If you click on the customer reviews you’ll see a fake one written by Helen where she calls herself “Joan H” and my actual review, which has been heavily redacted by the BBB to remove personal names. It gets the point across, though.
We have been fairly quiet here online lately but don’t take that to mean that nothing is happening. Cockroach Tracker™ continues to run quietly in the background. We have had significant contacts with more victims and with people who know Helen personally. So far nobody has come forward in her defense. 🙂