I-Team: Front Sight Founder Takes Another Shot at Development - 8 News NOW

Colleen McCarty, Reporter

I-Team: Front Sight Founder Takes Another Shot at Development

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Photo of Front Site's president Ignatius Piazza, Oct. 2004. Photo of Front Site's president Ignatius Piazza, Oct. 2004.
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Jan. 2009 -

On Tuesday, the founder of a local gun range will take another shot at turning it into the safest community in America. But the Eyewitness News I-Team has learned, representatives of the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute near Pahrump will likely see the inside of a courtroom long before they begin construction.

You could call it Déjà Vu. Unfulfilled promises surrounding a master planned community prompted three Front Sight members to file a class-action lawsuit. Front Sight settled but has yet to satisfy the terms of the agreement. It owes millions, as it again seeks approval to build the "homes on the range" it touted more than a decade ago.

In 2005, Carson City Attorney Erik Johnson beamed with trigger happiness at the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute in Pahrump.

"It's kind of like swimming. It's fun to do but along the way you're learning a skill that might save your life someday," said Erik Johnson.

Back then, Johnson averaged a weekend a month on the firing line. He was patiently awaiting the day his hobby would become his home. For $200,000, Johnson purchased a platinum membership in 2001. It entitled him to full use of the facilities plus a one acre home site in the future Front Sight master planned community.

"The plan was to eventually live here, but you know that may be quite a ways out," said Johnson in an interview in 2005. At that time, the development was four years behind its advertised schedule. Shortly thereafter, he joined a class action lawsuit against the facility seeking the return of his six-figure investment.

Two years later, Front Sight settled. But instead of payment, in October of this year, Johnson got an email banning him from the facility.

"I was told you no longer have access to membership benefits due to filing against us, the lawsuit," he said. Also in October, Front Sight founder Ignatius Piazza sent a letter to his members. It claims the attorney for the class action lawsuit refuses to give Front Sight more time to fund the settlement, thereby forcing the foreclosure of the property.

Yet Piazza explains, he's found a way to quote "cut the class off at the knees" by leasing the land to a new Front Sight and avoiding the court approved settlement. Has Piazza found a legal loophole?

"This guy's amazing," said local attorney George Kelesis, who has no connection to the lawsuit. The I-Team asked him to review the case.

"They have an expression, he's drinking his own Kool-Aid, that's all I can say. I don't know of a loophole. I've looked into this, I've discussed this with several other attorneys and we're not aware of any loophole. This settlement is solid," said Kelesis.

The settlement requires Front Sight to pay more than $6 million, $5 million of it still owed, according to class attorney Keith Greer. There is no foreclosure, Greer said and added that Front Sight may not lease the property without court approval.

As for members like Johnson, the agreement allows them full use of their memberships until they get their money back. Though it seems it may take another court order for Johnson to regain his place on the firing range.

"You're basically hanging around with friends, doing something you like. That's what the value of it is, or was," Johnson said.

The parties are due back in court in early March. Greer says he will use every means at his disposal to force Front Sight to pay. The attorney for Front Sight did not return our calls seeking comment. The development goes before the Nye County Commission on Tuesday for consideration.

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