Sarah's blog

My Negative Experience With Michael Brittingham by Sarah Dees

This is how I met Michael Brittingham. I am a single mother in Florida (USA) and an accomplished & experienced professional visual artist. I ran a successful business for 20 years. In January 2002, my life changed when I sustained a permanent nerve injury when I was hit by a truck in an auto wreck. The pain from the injury forced me to close my business at the time, “Dees Design Graphics”. Not long after, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer (the same as Farah Fawcett) and went through cancer treatment from Nov. 2006 to Nov. 2007. I endured radiation and chemotherapy. I nearly died, but survived, due to an inner strength that I feel emerged out of love; the love I felt for my daughter Cari, and the love Cari gave to me.

The physical devastation from cancer made it impossible for me to work for a long period of time after the treatment, and I could not produce any income. Living in the USA, I had to pay for most of the costs incurred by my medical condition myself. I went through a divorce in 2005 and spent the entire divorce settlement on purchasing a home for my daughter and myself. I had no savings. When I was diagnosed, I had to mortgage our home to pay for living expenses and medical bills. I also used credit cards and loans for those expenses. I planned – and still do plan – to pay it back and get financial stability when I’ve recovered.

This is why I came into financial difficulty and got behind on my bills and mortgage.

The financial devastation that can result from a critical illness such as this in the United States has been well documented. Many people in these circumstances lose their life savings, their homes and face foreclosure and bankruptcy. I posted an excellent article by Victoria Colliver about this issue in this blog. That is the state I was in, when I went public on the internet with my story, seeking financial assistance to give me a hand up, to help me get back on my feet.

Most human beings would find sympathy or at least empathy for a woman in a case like mine. They might seek to assist, and that is a reasonable assumption.

The person who answered my request for help was Michael Louis Brittingham. He said he was going to help me by offering me work and assistance. Although I am an intelligent woman, and I know enough to exercise due care and be aware of internet scams, I couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to take anything from someone like me, who had less than nothing left. I was wrong.

He approached me online using his Ning social networking sites,  “The American Business Club” and “A Closed Circle”, where he poses as a wealthy, successful businessman and pretends to be a humanitarian. His opening message was, “Sarah. I am going to help you personally for 100% and more of what you need. For you and for your sweetheart daughter. I also am partnering in a record label in California and in London, and I am the PM for a few artists, so I also want to talk with your daughter and form her career… which in the end will support you both. That little “dot” at the end of my sentence is a “period!”. Msg me at once, and I will give you personal coordinates enabling us to talk seriously. Michael”

He told me not to worry about anything anymore. He said he would take care of me and my daughter and that the bad times were behind us. He promised me an employment contract for three years with a guaranteed salary as of the first week of October 2009, in an “Artist in Residence” program. I would be repaying him for settling my debts out of the salary I earned from him during that three-year time period.

He instructed me to pack up my home, sell what I could and move the rest of my things into storage in preparation for a move to Europe (first to Switzerland, then to Italy). I was told that my daughter and I would be living with five other artist single mothers and their children in a castle he was purchasing. He informed me that he would arrive at my home in early August, and that I was to prepare a room for him to stay with us. He was very vague about what was next in terms of where we were going and when, but explained that he would take care of all the financial arrangements, and arrive with money to pay all of the bills. He would provide all of the financing necessary for everything. He was very insistent about the necessity of me following his directions to the letter, saying that he was the leader, and that I must follow him “or be on my own and lost.”

Since I was really without any other good options and running out of time to find relief before I lost our home, I admit, I was feeling so hopeful that it would be true that I didn’t want to believe it when my friends and family said it was “too good to be true”. When I brought up the doubts of my family members, he was quick to be reassuring, but also a bit intimidating, telling me that they didn’t know him. He was very convincing, always had plenty of explanations, and really insisted on me having faith and trust in him. He was also insistent that I keep my interactions with him confidential, and asked me not to speak with anyone, as he said he was in negotiations with Royals who were very touchy about the strictest of confidence. He would quickly move past any questions. He convinced me that everything was fine, saying that he would sit down to dinner with me and my ex-husband, and go over everything with us when he arrived. He said he would answer all my questions completely then.

I didn’t find out until later when we started investigating him that the owners of the castles he said he was purchasing had never heard of him before. He never had a penny of his own money or money from any investors to have ever made this “Artist In Residence” program even remotely possible. It was a deliberate scam to take money, living expenses and travel expenses from artists using the promise of employment as a ruse.

When he arrived on August 4th, to my surprise, he told me he would be staying with us for a month, and that now we would be going to California with him, to participate in a new project he was working on, “The Michael Jackson Museum”. He explained that we would be going through with the AIR program in Italy later on, after the museum was established and running. He said that I would work as his Personal Assistant in my home, and said that he would compensate me for this, as well as helping me make arrangements to settle my debts. To back this up, he met with a debt negotiation specialist and lawyer I had selected beforehand.  Following the plan of action the three men discussed with me, he sent letters, along with me, to all my creditors promising to settle and pay off my debts. My house payments would be caught up to date, and the house would stay in my name. I was very concerned about saving our home for my daughter, as that was a driving motivation for me. I wanted to believe in him, because I had struggled so much on my own, and I wanted a hand of assistance. I told him all along that my main priority was to provide for my daughter, both financial stability and opportunity.

Although he brought his laptop, he asked to use my computer in my home office,  saying it was more convenient, and already had the printer set up. He worked on my computer, sending Emails to people in his networks and writing “The Michael Jackson Neverland Museum” project. I have a copy of this original PDF proposal. He used my home phone number in it as his direct line in the US.

He showed me the Pickfair mansion for sale online at a real estate site, and engaged me all along in the project as if it were legitimate. Later he changed the name of it to “The Michael Jackson Museum at Pickfair.” He told me we would live in the 12-bedroom guest mansion on the property, me working for him as part of his personal staff, and that he would live the rest of his life as a multi-millionaire in Beverly Hills. The Michael Jackson art and memorabilia collection would be displayed in the main mansion. I began to feel concern when I realized that the deal he planned was at the very beginning stages. Still, I saw him complete the proposal, and I proofread it. He told me he submitted the proposal to the Jackson Family’s lawyer, John Branca, whom he spoke of repeatedly as the driving force on the Jackson legal team. He went into detail with me on his plan, and he seemed confident it would be approved, saying he had close family ties to the Jackson legal team and family.

During his entire stay, he did not give me a penny, promising me a bank transfer on the way to be used for his expenses, such as food, transportation and lodging in my home. He knew my very last dollars were running out. He assured me repeatedly that I must relax and not worry about money, as he expected a “big draw” from a business deal in Europe to come in for him. He said when my money was gone, there would be plenty for all of us, and we could rely on him from then on. Several times I drove him to the Western Union office to pick up “little draws” he said, that his assistant in Europe was sending him, for his personal expenses, like his constant cigarettes. Seeing he was getting some money coming in that way made it seem more plausible that a “big draw” would come in too.

Again, I didn’t find out until later in investigating him, that the money I took him to pick up at Western Union was sent to him at my address from an artist in Germany, whom he told to send him money to open a bank account for her and to buy her an airline ticket. He had convinced her that she would be moving to Beverly Hills to work in the Michael Jackson Museum he was establishing. He used all of her money for himself and had her selling her furniture and packing up to move out of her apartment, using the same lines on her that he used on me.

He introduced me to his own son and his son’s children, and I liked them very much. Meeting them, I felt much more comfortable with accepting him as legitimate.

As time went by, I was getting worried about covering my costs. Several times I asked him about the money, and told him it needed to be here by due dates or utilities would be cut off. When I tried to discuss the subject, he became irritated and sharp, hushing me by angrily saying he was doing so much for me already by paying all my debts, and that I had been spending money like water. He said I was “whining” and irritating him. I resorted to writing lists and notes and leaving them prominently on my desktop for him, still concerned because paying things and survival has always been my responsibility.

He left for Europe abruptly on August 27th, telling me his assistant’s father died, and he had to attend the funeral. He promised to come back in September and he assured me that $1,000 had been deposited into my bank account by his assistant in Zurich. I Emailed him at every address for days but he never contacted me after he left, and then he suddenly banned me from his networks. He obviously had no intention of picking up his tab for his stay, paying me for the month I had already worked for him, or settling my debts. He had just taken advantage of my situation and used his family to secure his lodging and upkeep in my home.

I have evidence to prove he deliberately scammed and manipulated me to serve his own needs, resulting in loss of money he owed to me directly, as well as preventing me from finding other employment and making income for myself elsewhere, while he duped me into believing he would provide employment.

The time I lost while he tied me up with his lies caused my financial problems to escalate, as his promises to resolve things reassured me and I stopped looking to make other arrangements to take care of these issues. I could have found employment months ago, but we have truly suffered for accepting this man’s word as truth. This man promised to help me and my daughter, but he left me worse off than he found me. He not only manipulated and scammed me, but intentionally scammed my fourteen-year-old daughter as well, promising her a career in music and recording contracts.

Since his departure, I have learned of other single mothers he has approached and damaged in similar ways. He uses whatever angle he needs to suck these women in, be it promising to make them successful in the music industry as a recording artist, in visual arts, in real estate, or in whatever profession he invents he is the MASTER of.

I think this happened to me in this point in time because I was extremely vulnerable. I do not say that women are vulnerable as a general rule, but he seems to find those who are most needy and most positive, kind and hopeful, those most eager to find a better life and create good opportunities for the children they long to responsibly care for. He used these emotions and hopes as tools for manipulation. He stole things from a person who was kind enough to provide him with a place to live for a year.

I did not find anything negative about Brittingham reported prior to meeting him personally, and neither did other bright women he preyed upon, although there may have been some red flags here and there. I think he counts on the shame and humiliation that women feel when they are taken in and the feelings they “let down” others who depended upon them, to keep them quiet and not report him and his activities.

I will no longer be intimidated by this man. His pattern needs to end now. A new chapter in this man’s life needs to begin, a chapter of justice and facing the music. He left self-incriminating evidence and I have turned it over to law enforcement authorities who are now investigating this case. Reports have been made to police and to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). IC3’s mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime.

Police reports have now been made in Switzerland, Germany, the UK and the United States. This man has been living at the expense of good people as a parasite. I have proof that he is an international internet predator.

Bravo to Danielle Libine in Europe for bravely showing leadership in stopping this man from harming other people. Her goal, which I share, is to alert and educate others about Michael Louis Brittingham, so that they can make better-informed decisions about whether to become involved with him if he approaches them. Check back at this site again, as I will be updating this blog with details of this story as it unfolds.

There is a trail of broken hearts left by this man, and he must be held accountable. People are stepping forward to tell their stories on Rip Off Report. Please search the site using the names Michael Brittingham and Michael Louis Brittingham. You will see for yourself the pattern of abuse.Ripoff Report® is a worldwide consumer reporting Web site and publication, by consumers, for consumers, to file and document complaints about companies or individuals.

If you have been contacted by Michael Louis Brittingham, and have an experience to share, I would like to ask you to step forward and tell your story too.

Sarah Dees

Published Sept-05-2009, Updated October-02-2009
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NOTE: “Michael Brittingham” is the name of not just this man, but also the name of this man’s son (Michael Brittingham II) and grandson (Michael Brittingham III). I met the son and grandson, and I can attest to the fact that neither of them knew anything about this man’s negative activities, and neither were any party to this. I want to do what I can to help them both keep their names and reputations clear of association with the mess their father/grandfather made, as they are both good people, and they truly do live decent lives and actually help people. Mike II works with young people and families, and he is a kind, warm gentleman with a good heart. Mike III is a personable, positive young man, who has nothing to do with his grandfather or his grandfather’s way of life.

  1. […] The Financial Devastation of Cancer Treatment|My Negative Experience With Michael Brittingham by Sarah Dees| […]

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