A home on the range motivated some gun enthusiasts to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a one-acre lot at the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute. Now 6 years later, the promised parcels remain as desolate as they day they were secured. Prompting a class action lawsuit against the organization and its president.
The Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, near Pahrump, boasts some 4,000 members. These are people who've paid anywhere from $100,000 to $1,200 for a lifetime of self-defense training. Memberships purchased early on were marketed as investments, but now some are finding their sure-fire deal has missed its mark.
First Family member Stacy James says, "I was flipping through the channels one evening and happened to catch a news segment about a place out in Nevada that was offering a free one day Uzi submachine gun class. I thought that sounded like a lot of fun."
One squeeze of the Uzi submachine gun had James locked and loaded. He purchased a lifetime membership, unlimited handgun, shotgun and rifle classes, the same day.
James says, "What really interested me were the full-auto classes. The Uzi, the select fire M-16. That was a pretty high level membership, a silver. It was advertised; the one payment price at that time was $65,000. And I really wasn't prepared to come up with that day one, so I signed up for the lowest level, the copper membership."
Then in 2001, Front Sight founder, former chiropractor Dr. Ignatius Piazza put the precious metal within reach. For $50,000, the remaining balance on someone else’s defaulted membership, James went from copper to silver with the full-auto classes and the ammunition included.
James says, "It was always presented that the membership was an investment. You could take the classes you wanted and then if for any reason you decided to sell in the future. You could sell your membership at the current market price and then you would recoup your value."
But soon, the terms began to change and the prices started to drop -- dramatically. The latest lifetime membership, though not precisely the same, offers firearms training including the coveted full-auto classes, for $1,200.
James says, "Nobody’s going to buy mine, what I paid 50 thousand for to break even. No one’s going to buy it from me when there’s lots of people who paid a fraction of that." Frustrated by what he considers a string of broken promises, James brought his concerns to Piazza.
Piazza says, "From a short-sided stand point, you may see some fluctuations in prices but that doesn't mean that there aren't things that are occurring that are going to occur very shortly or even long-term that are going to make huge differences, and the people who get in and take advantage of it are going to be very, very happy."
To keep James happy, Piazza upgraded his membership from silver to gold, and claims James has already zeroed out his costs based on the retail value of the classes he’s taken. Unsatisfied, James hired attorney Keith Greer.
Greer says, "Piazza took other people’s money for investment capital to start his operation and then when he got it up and running, he hung them out to dry. Didn't follow through on the promises he made, didn't give them what they expected, didn't give them their money back."
Greer has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of James and other Front Sight members, alleging Piazza de-frauded thousands for his own personal gain.
Investigative Reporter Colleen McCarty asked Piazza, "Do you think when you say one thing and then it changes do you start to worry that people wonder what's really true and what's really not?"
Piazza answers, "I think when people come out here and have the opportunity to see us and speak to us and see what we're doing, if they have a question they can ask it. And we'll be happy to answer it."
Piazza may one day answer those questions in court, until then, James makes the drive to Front Sight as often as he can.
Since our first story aired Monday night, we've received dozens of emails from other Front Sight members. The I-Team will continue to follow this story.
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