(July 30) -- Las Vegas hypnotist Marshall Sylver charges thousands of dollars to attend his self-improvement seminars, but many of those who've been through the course think it's a ripoff.
In his Las Vegas stage act, Sylver bills himself as the world's greatest hypnotist, and he certainly fits the part, with piercing eyes and a silky-smooth voice. Such traits are also vital to his self-improvement seminars. But many of those who've taken the course say they were also taken for a ride.
"Because of the deep concern I have for other people, and because of my family, it led to this career," Sylver said.
With a voice worthy of a radio disc jockey and a commanding stage presence, Sylver can talk people into almost anything. His abilities as a hypnotist led to regular appearances at the Stratosphere a few years ago, as well as guest spots on national talk shows, but it's his self-help work that has made him a wealthy man.
His sprawling, nine-bedroom, 12,000-square-foot home is filled with expensive art, and in the back, a pool with its own waterfall and swim-up bar. Sylver says he likes to flaunt it.
"I'm kinda Vegas-ey," he said. "I like flashy cars; my girl is a beautiful actress-model. I like living flashy."
In seminars staged in Las Vegas hotels and around the world, Sylver and his staff teach people how to quit smoking or lose weight, but more importantly, how to become rich. The seminars are advertised on Sylver's Website, which is also where he hawks his books and videos. They're expensive -- up to $6,000 a program. In his literature, promises that those who sign up will double their money during the course. If not, they get their money back -- guaranteed.
Sean Roach says he never made a dime and he never got back any money. Roach is one of the hundreds of locals who've signed up for Sylver's classes on how to become a millionaire, and is one of the dozens who now complain Sylver didn't fulfill what he promised.
"He's an extremely good salesman. He had a money-back guarantee; if he hadn't had, I never would have signed up," said Kathleen Guise.
Guise spent $4,500 on her seminar but says what she got was hardly worth it. "The same type information that's in self-help books or on 'Oprah.' Be organized, how to have good habits, be spiritually-centered, basically common-sense type things," she explained.
Although Sylver's ads pledge there is no small print, when Guise asked for her money back, she was told she hadn't done her assignments well enough. It's the same story for another man, who says he went above and beyond what was required of him in the course, but was refused his money back, all $11,000.
"I did not double my money," he said. "I haven't made any money since then. I've had to live off credit cards now.
The Attorney General's Office confirms to Eyewitness News it has received numerous complaints about Sylver and that it is investigating. Most of the complaints allege they have endured financial hardship because of the financing which Sylver provides -- they report bad credit ratings, difficulty in paying their bills, losses of personal property, certainly a far cry from being millionaires.
According to one client: "He did say we would learn something. I think I learned something the hard way, that's for sure."
Sylver has not yet been available to speak with Eyewitness News. The earlier Sylver quotes in this story were from an interview conducted a few years ago. His attorney says he will sit down with Eyewitness News sometime in the future.
Late Monday afternoon, we received from Sylver's organization a videotape containing statements made by people who've attended his seminars and were very satisfied. We also were given a copy lawsuit filed by Sylver against Sean Roach, who was interviewed for our story. Sylver accuses Roach of defamation, trespassing, and making threats.
The Attorney General's Office would like to hear from any who feels they have been wronged by Sylver. Call 486-3420 for more information.