Investors in Bless 7 financial program start complaining

Every Tuesday night, they go to the church off East Rosedale Street to learn how to make money. Every Tuesday night, they hear about the Bless 7 plan to recruit new members and get paid for doing so. And every Tuesday night, they hear explanations about why they aren’t getting paid.

But one recent Tuesday night was different.

On this night, a rebellion seemed to be in the making.

The instigator was Adrian Durand, a small-business owner who, with friends and family, said he has invested about $1,400 in Bless 7, part of TeachingU2Fish.com.

He had met the program’s charismatic leader, Donald D. Wilson Jr., 53, of Florida, and liked what he heard about the program now sweeping through African-American communities in Fort Worth and Dallas.

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

“I was coming to the meetings faithfully,” Durand says. “I signed up 14 people.”

He needed seven to get his first payment, his Bless 7.

When payday came, suddenly his list of 14 had dropped below seven, he said. He couldn’t get paid. Where did his people go?

As readers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Dave Lieber Watchdog column first learned, Wilson has blamed computer problems. (Read the original story about Bless 7/TeachingU2Fish here.)

That Tuesday night, Durand was standing outside the church, practically pawing the ground like an angry tiger.

He said he planned to speak up inside.

“At the stage I’m at, I’m supposed to be making $350 a day,” he said. “I haven’t made $3.50 a day.”

Organizers say 6,000 people have joined. At a minimum of $32 to enter, that’s $192,000 collected in a few months of work. But many, like Durand, paid more than $32 to enter at a higher level.

Durand said he should have known better but ignored clues.

One, Durand said, is that Wilson claims to be rich but his shoes are a little ragged. Shoes give clues, Durand said.

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Another clue, he said, is that Bless 7 recruitment meetings are held weekly in a Dallas hotel. During one, Durand said, organizers passed a collection plate to pay for the room.

Bless 7 has a money-back guarantee. That night, Durand said he intended to make good on it.

Twenty people were already in the church when Durand joined them. He grabbed a seat in the front row. Pastor Elgin Pringle Jr., who runs the church and is Bless 7’s Fort Worth manager, led the meeting. He told the audience that Wilson is on the road, spreading the promises of Bless 7 to others.

Pringle explained that the program has stopped temporarily because of glitches. That’s why no one is getting paid. But Friday looks good, he said. Maybe Friday.

“Let’s take what God has blessed through TeachingU2Fish and make it happen,” he said happily.

Durand raised his hand. In a barely audible voice, he complained that people he signs up disappear from his list.

Pringle started to answer, but Durand cut him off. His voice was rising. “I give up. I’m done. Every time we get to the point of paying on Friday, there’s another excuse. I’m done with excuses. I’m here to get my money back …

“I feel like a fool that I brought family and friends into this. I felt in my heart that this was how I was going to bless my family, my church, my friends and a homeless ministry where I work.”

Pringle told Durand that he will work to get his money back. “Call me tomorrow,” he said.

Durand responded that he can’t get him on the phone. “Your voice mailbox is always full.”

Saying he can’t take anymore, Durand got up and left. Too bad. He missed seeing the growth that burst forth after he planted seeds of doubt.

A man in the audience said he paid for his recruits but hadn’t been paid either. “I just have to ask for my money back, too. I’m trying to hold on, but it’s kind of hard.”

A woman asked Pringle whether he has had problems getting paid. Pringle answered that he’s in the same fix.

Another man said he believes there are too many members for computer programmers to handle. A woman asked whether she should stop recruiting.

“That’s a good question,” Pringle said. “I’ll let Wilson answer that.”

Another woman complained that she is being asked to pay more for something she already paid for. “That’s not right,” Pringle said.

Still, he is not deterred.

“I think September is going to be the month we get started and move forward,” he said.

A day later, Durand, as instructed, called Pringle to get his money back. Fat chance. As of the writing of this story, almost two weeks after the promise of a refund, Durand still hadn’t received anything.

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Are you tired of fighting the bank, the credit card company, the electric company and the phone company? They can be worse than scammers the way they treat customers. A popular book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, shows you how to fight back — and win! The book is available at WatchdogNation.com as a hardcover, CD audio book, e-book and hey, what else do you need? The author is The Watchdog columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Visit our store. Now revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

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