When he started a business selling trailer hitch locking devices, Karl Pratt was just a regular schmo whose boat trailer had once been stolen. The theft had cost him $1,500 and months of trailerlessness.
He turned his misfortune into fortune with the device, soliciting $1 million from about 50 investors. But when his investors began to suspect that Pratt wasn't actually delivering what he'd promised as The Dallas Obsever reports. That's when federal investigators got involved.
Pratt's business was enshrouded in a thicket of lies, beginning with his claim that his Safety Sentry was patented. It wasn't; the U.S. Patent Office had denied two applications. Pratt also told his investors that he had a deal with Hertz in the bag, and that he was negotiating with UHaul and Ryder. Federal investigators discovered that none of them even knew who he was.
When one of the investors sued Pratt, he hired a hit man to take care of the guy. It didn't do much to help his cause.
Having been deemed a significant flight risk and a potential threat to his detractors, Pratt has been in jail since January. He was charged with a laundry list of fraudulent activities, including using the money he collected from investors for personal expenditures.
Although sales have been temporarily suspended, the the Safety Sentry, Inc. website is still up and running. We're guessing it might be a while before you can put anything in your cart, though. (Hat tip to Nick!)
Photo credit: Granbury, Texas Chamber of Commerce