Rex Allen Harris, a Covington, Louisiana-based “advertiser,” was recently sentenced to 38 months in prison for scamming real estate agents out of nearly $2 million in lead generation and referral services he never delivered on, over the course of eight years.
Starting in 2008, Harris–who also operated under the aliases Michael Harris, Rex Rogan and Rex Alan–got agents to pay him thousands of dollars for digital ads and commercials that would run on major television networks in their ZIP codes. Those commercials, he claimed, would boost agents’ sales and rake in the referrals.
According to court documents, he also used Craigslist and ZipRecruiter to hire people he called “appointment setters,” “closers” and “account managers” who contacted and met with Realtors interested in using Harris’s services.
He provided the employees with telephone scripts, sales brochures and network placement guides that included false information, such as contracts between Harris’s company, Agents By City, and national television networks such as ABC, Fox and ESPN.
The “closers” also showed potential clients false testimonial videos where actors, who posed as agents, praised Agents By City’s advertising services.
Lastly, agents were asked to sign advertising agreements that promised leads equal to the purchase price, which ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars, within the first 90 days of the service.
Agents were asked to pay by check, and Harris used that money to pay his employees and fund his personal lifestyle, which included purchasing merchandise through PayPal, Foot Locker and Nike.com and New Orleans Saints season tickets, all amounting in the sum of $1,628,319.
Over the years, Harris operated under a number of business names, such as Our Family First Realty, Better Realty Deals, Amazing Realty Deals, The Top Agent/Monolith Media Group, and American Real Estate Idols, and when agents complained about not seeing the ads, Harris’s “closers” sent emails threatening and chastising them.
Harris pleaded guilty to all charges in September 2017, and he began serving his three-year sentence on February 6. After his release, Harris will have a three-year probation and a restitution of $1,628,319.