Bless 7 and sell tickets for non-existent car raffle

A preacher who claims to have attracted thousands of North Texans to a moneymaking investment has been promoting a new plan that he says will bless the poor.

Donald Wilson of Tampa, Fla., founder and CEO of TeachingU2fish, which offers his Bless 7 program, was selling $15 raffle tickets for a Ford Edge that he said was donated by Park Cities Ford. The winner was supposed to be chosen this month.

But he does not have the car, and there has been no drawing.

Donald Wilson, founder and CEO of Bless 7, part of TeachingU2Fish

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As readers of Dave Lieber Watchdog column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first learned, this investment program started off with a bang (“The Story of Bless 7 and”) and began fizzling out (“Investors in Bless 7 financial program start complaining.”)

Unfulfilled promises seemed the norm in the Bless 7 program, which promised members that they would get paid if they brought others in. Some have been paid, but many say they haven’t.

It costs $25 to join, though some paid much more to enter at higher levels. Then members — including preachers, small businesses and nonprofit organizations — start recruiting others. When they bring in the first seven, they have completed their first mission. That’s where the name comes from.

They get paid — or blessed — for each recruit. Wilson has promised that as members move up levels, they can receive up to $5,000 a day in gold and silver coins. Members get paid when people use the program’s Web browser to search the Internet, and they are supposed to have access to discount shopping.

Some investors have demanded their money back. Wilson has blamed problems on computer glitches, saying the program was in its early stages.

The raffle came about after Wilson ran into Debra Elise Turner at the breakfast bar of a motel, she said.

Turner said Wilson heard her talking on a cellphone to a friend at Ford Motor Co. After her call, he introduced himself and asked about her relationship with Ford.

He explained that he was involved in a ministry that included a program that helped poor people get cars. She said Wilson eventually introduced her to his Bless 7 Fort Worth manager, Pastor Elgin Pringle Jr.

Then, she said, Wilson asked her to organize a car raffle. Turner introduced the two preachers to the managers at Park Cities Ford. The managers said that they could not donate a car because they didn’t want to appear partial to any religious denomination but that they would gladly sell him a car at a reduced price.

Wilson told them that the proceeds would go toward buying more cars for people in need.

Wilson said Turner told her that he would pay her $15,000 to help set up the raffle, though she said she has not received any money.

Raffle ticket

She said she paid for an advertisement in the Dallas Voice newspaper. She said she was careful not to say in the ad that the dealership was donating the car.

Dallas Voice ad

Wilson wasn’t as careful on his website, He promoted the raffle this way:

“Thank God for Park Cities Ford for donating the 2011 Ford Edge to bless the body of Christ.

“Raffle Tickets $15.

“Last day to purchase tickets is Nov. 15, 2011.

“Raffle will be held Nov. 19, 2011 at Park Cities Ford, Dallas, Texas.”

Turner said she kept asking Wilson to remove the word donating, but he did not.

Bless 7 members sold tickets for three weeks.

But on Nov. 19, there was no drawing. Wilson told his leadership team that it was postponed until early December.

Chad Lower, the Internet sales manager for the dealership, told me: “Park Cities Ford has not donated a car. Wilson inquired about purchasing a Ford Edge from us. It was actually supposed to be purchased Monday, on Nov. 14. That didn’t happen.”

Fortunes O’Neal, the Dallas dealership’s general manager and partner, told me that the dealership agreed to sell the car at a discount because it likes to help worthy charitable endeavors. Wilson called to postpone the purchase, citing “a couple of scheduling issues.” He left a number for the dealership to call, but it didn’t work, O’Neal said.

O’Neal said: “I am absolutely shocked. This is terrible. It’s over. There’s no more. We’re not doing business with him. We won’t be associated with him.”

I called Wilson at his Forest Hill motel to ask about this. He listened to the information I had been told and hung up on me.

State law requires that charities selling raffle tickets be in good standing in Texas for three years. Religious-oriented charities must be in operation for 10 years. Bless 7, which is not registered in Texas, has been operating for less than a year.

The law also states that if a prize is not awarded within 30 days of a drawing, everyone who bought a ticket must get a refund.

 State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, told me that he has complained about Bless 7 to the Texas attorney general. “I am totally offended and upset by this,” he said. “The faster you can get this sort of thing broken up and get people to know it’s not legit, the better.”

 An attorney general’s spokesman told me that failure to comply with the state Charitable Raffle Enabling Act could result in a raffle being classified as illegal gambling.

“This is definitely something to take up with local law enforcement,” the spokesman said.

Fort Worth police said they have received no complaints.

After I contacted Wilson about his raffle, he sent an e-mail to his Bless 7 leaders that he wanted all tickets sold immediately.

Then, in another e-mail, he wrote that he wanted to start a new project: “I would like to go meet with a Mercedes dealership and pick out a vehicle for next month … and get the tickets moving as [soon as] possible to give more people a better opportunity to ‘WIN’ this Mercedes!” (He put the word win in quotes.)

On Tuesday, he sent another e-mail to his followers:

“I do want to give notice that I am leaving the Texas area in a day or two and will return next year sometime in February or so to help you. … We have so many places that are pumped! New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, several areas of Florida and Jamaica, and we must make this happen to bless you all.”

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Read previous Watchdog Nation reports about this program:

“The Story of Bless 7 and”

“Investors in Bless 7 financial program start complaining.”   

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