A property investor who runs courses costing more than £10,000 to help people become ‘financially free’ has been accused of using his wealth and the UK’s plaintiff-friendly defamation laws to stop criticism of his methods .
Ellisons of Samuel Leeds solicitors have issued legal proceedings or threatened legal action against at least 15 people or owned websites known to the Guardian.
A section on Leeds’ YouTube channel, which has more than 260,000 subscribers, is titled ‘Buying Homes With No Money Down’, while the website of Leeds-based Property Investors suggests: ‘Anyone can become financially free in 12 months or less by investing in real estate. ” Lynch often criticizes his critics in videos, but he has also responded in other ways.
A legal letter has been sent to Carrie Jones, the sister of Danny Butcher, a soldier from Doncaster who killed himself after paying £13,000 for training with Property Investors. Butcher’s family said he was in debt before taking the seminary and never made the money he thought he would from it. The letter, which Jones described as a “scare tactic”, accused her and other family members of engaging in a campaign of “smear and harassment”.
Jones was unhappy that the letter referred to Nick Fletcher, MP for Don Valley, being contacted about her brother’s case.
“I can talk to anyone I like,” he said. “I was shocked and disturbed that he had the audacity to text me to tell me to shut up when he can’t even have the decency to speak to Danny’s family. I thought it was very shocking and disrespectful.”
Ellisons said Leeds had been advised not to speak to Butcher’s family because he had been subjected to an “unlawful smear and harassment campaign”.
The company told the Guardian the letter was sent after “months of defamatory comments” from Jones, which she denies. Ellisons initially offered to send the Guardian a program with allegedly defamatory comments, but later declined to do so.
The letter warned Jones about contacting Andrew Burgess and other people involved in a Facebook group dealing with Leeds, who together are being sued for more than £6m by Leeds for alleged harassment and defamation. He is seeking a six-figure sum in a separate lawsuit against Vanessa Warwick, the co-founder of the Property Tribes website.
Warwick, who has countersued for defamation and harassment, denies the allegations and says it has nothing to do with the Facebook group despite Leeds’ suggestions. He said the volume of legal threats suggested Leeds wanted to “shut down public comment and send a clear message to others not to comment on social media for fear of being sued.”
He said: “The training and wealth creation sector is completely anarchic and so public feedback and community-generated due diligence resources are precisely the only line of consumer protection that prevents people from being parted with their savings and pensions or to proceed further. in debt”.
Burgess declined to comment, but the crowdfunding page says he attended an open house and felt “uncomfortable with the extremely hard sell and how some of the people I had spoken to, who were in desperate situations, had signed up for further education, costing many thousands of pounds.”
Lynch’s lawyers told the Guardian: “The defendants and people incited by their Facebook group directly targeted (by instant messages, phone calls and emails) Mr. Lynch, his parents, his siblings, his business associates and his pastor… They contacted anyone who was openly associating with our clients as students and we tried to encourage them to distance themselves from our clients with threats that they would “regret it” if they didn’t. The campaign regularly included threats of violence and death wishes to our clients and included racist comments against our client’s wife.”
Property website LandlordZONE has pulled content about Leeds after legal letters claiming it was defamatory.
Another lawsuit, which was later settled, was brought against Jon Holstead, for alleged copyright infringement in a video in which the fellow YouTuber discussed taking out a loan to pay for a £12,000 course and questioned its value. He used clips from the Leeds videos, relying on the copyright law’s “fair dealing” exception, which includes use for criticism and reviews, but Ellisons disagreed.
Ellisons said: “Our customers do not feel they are ‘stifling’ legitimate comment or criticism. All they do is stop the spread of a small number of harmful downloads spread by a small number of people.”