Warning John Constantine Golfis
As reported by CBS 11 News
Feb 7, 2007 9:24 pm US/Central
Artists Claim Man Conned Them Out Of Thousands
(CBS 11 News) DALLAS He's a charming entrepreneur with an uncanny ability to close the sale. But beyond his intoxicating pitch and extensive knowledge of photo and video production, some see criminal intent.
John Constantine Golfis is the brains behind two Irving art production and marketing companies, American Virtual Dimensions and IOS Fine Art, respectively.
The companies are the subjects of complaints by a former investor and employee who say Golfis owes them thousands of dollars in wages and merchandise. A four-month CBS 11 News investigation reveals a three decade, multi-state criminal history in the business owner's past.
Golfis offers a very different explanation. He said these alleged victims are part of a campaign by a vindictive ex-wife to ruin him.
"My ex-wife has been involved with every business and every relationship that I've ever had," he said. "She has been able to infiltrate every customer and every person that we do business with."Those making the allegations insist that only Golfis' actions prompted their complaints
Remy Aquino was contacted by Golfis after posting her photography portfolio online. The recent New York transplant was eager to work and thought she had found a great opportunity with Golfis, shooting digital portraits to be converted to art. The finished product, called a giclée, requires a special printer to produce large copies of the images on canvass.
Aquino said Golfis promised her $2-3,000 worth of work every week. But before she even shot her first picture for Golfis, he told her she would need to buy nearly $8,000 worth of lighting equipment from him, of which Golfis would pay half.
Aquino's boyfriend, Todd Nation, said he was happy to foot the bill. "I just saw it as an opportunity for Remy, and if it had been twice that amount I would have written the check. The amount wasn't really that relevant," he said.
After waiting a week for the lighting equipment that never came, Remy convinced Golfis to put her to work. When she reported to her first day on the job, she said she was disappointed to learn that the five photo shoots Golfis promised had turned into just one.
Her disappointment deepened when Golfis refused to pay her for the shoot.
"He's like, [the photos are] unusable," she recalls. "He liked a couple of [the photos] and put them aside, and then when it comes down to it, he said, 'No, this is unusable.'"
When, weeks later, the promised work and equipment never materialized, the couple asked for their money back. Aquino said Golfis has been promising to return their money ever since.
"It has been a lot of runaround, definitely. I mean, it was very disappointing, because all I really wanted to do was work," Aquino said.
Debra Sanders tells a similar story. The Euless painter said she jumped on the opportunity to work with Golfis' other venture, IOS Fine Art. The art marketing company offers high-quality reproductions of artists' work and promises to distribute the reproductions to galleries across the country for a fee.
"It's extremely hard to make a living as an artist, extremely hard, and we are very hopeful of anything that would come along that will help our careers," Sanders said.
After giving Golfis $1,500 in cash to market her work last September, Sanders said Golfis hit her up for another $3,000 investment in mid-November. He described the purchase to her as a complete art collection from a Florida estate auction. Sanders said she was told she would be put in charge of a gallery housing the collection once the art arrived in Dallas.
Later that month, Sanders went to work full time for Golfis, converting digital images to art. She said within the first couple of days of her employment, Golfis convinced her to buy a computer from him for $1,100.
Like Aquino, Sanders has yet to see any of the merchandise for which she paid. Also like Aquino, she said Golfis' promises to repay the money remain unfulfilled. What's worse, she said Golfis shorted her paychecks by more than $2,000.
"He said that he would make arrangements to get me my money back, but he didn't pay me my payroll check," Sanders said. "I don't have confidence that I will get it back."
CBS 11 News met with Golfis Jan. 22 to ask about the allegations against him. But before the interview even began, he and his lawyer, Scott Huber, insisted that Golfis' ex-wife was to blame.
"I can show you her e-mails that she's sending, .not only defaming, but outright lying," Golfis said.
Golfis said his ex-wife has sabotaged every business he has been associated with for the last 10 years or more. She does this, he said, by contacting employees and business partners and convincing them to sever their business ties with Golfis.
"We're beginning now to lose customers because of what's going on," said Golfis.
He explains that when he loses customers, he loses money. When he loses money, he can't pay investors and employees.
"Then it becomes a chain reaction," Golfis claims.
However, Remy said she's never heard of, or corresponded with, Golfis' ex-wife. Sanders said she has heard about the ex , but from Golfis himself.
"He's shown me lawsuits against him from his ex-wife and said that all of his problems stem from his ex-wife," Sanders recalls. "So I feel sorry for him, if he's a victim of his wife, but I'm a victim of him."
Golfis sees it differently. "Owing money is not a criminal matter. It's not something people go to prison for, owing money," he said.
But in 2001, Golfis was convicted of multiple counts of grand theft and was sentenced to four years in California prison. Golfis went to federal prison in the early 80s for wire fraud and since 1992 has racked up nearly $300,000 in state and federal tax liens.
There are also multiple small claims judgments against Golfis in Texas and California. When CBS 11 News contacted the plaintiffs in the cases, they described strikingly similar scenarios to those described by Aquino and Sanders.
Alan Ruskin went to work for Golfis as a writer in 1997 in Los Angeles. He was told by Golfis that his work was "unusable" and never paid. He was awarded a $600 judgment for lost wages by the West L.A. Municipal Court.
Irving police investigated Golfis in 1998 but dropped the case when he was arrested in California. After receiving five recent complaints from Golfis' investors, they have reopened the case. When asked to respond to Golfis' claims, his ex-wife had no comment.
(CBS 11 News)