An ABC affiliate in North Carolina has picked up the story about the fraud allegations of former star of "Paranormal State" and ghost hunter Ryan Buell today. Buell was accused by scamming his fans out of hundreds of thousands of dollars this summer and ABC investigative reporter and "Troubleshooter" Diane Wilson will have more to this ongoing story on Monday, on Raleigh's ABC11 Eyewitness News.
Earlier this month, former "Paranormal State" television personality Ryan Buell announced on his Facebook and Twitter pages that he was cancelling his upcoming lecture tour that was scheduled in the US for this summer. Buell also posted an apology to his angry fans informing them that health issues are the reason that he cancelled the US and Canada lecture tours this year.
Buell appeared on the hit A&E paranormal reality show "Paranormal State" with his paranormal research team, the Paranormal Research Society from December 2007 to May 2011. He founded the group when he was a 19-year-old student at Pennsylvania State University.
This summer Buell was scheduled to appear in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Vancouver for the "Paranormal: The Experience" lecture tour from June 4 through June 22. Buell promised to visit each city and do a meet-and-greet with fans. Lectures, ghost hunts, and other paranormal fun stuff was supposed to be in store for fans but apparently all of the events were cancelled without notice and Buell and friends were allegedly a no-show. According to representatives of the venues, all of the events but one were never booked.
Between Canada and the US, there were 14 venues scheduled but only one of them were actually booked. The only one to receive a deposit was the venue in Winnipeg and the deposit was forfeited when Buell and PRS cancelled. Fans that arrived for the show that evening were welcomed with a sign on the door stating that the event had been cancelled.
Tired of the all of the cancellations and endless and empty promises, angry ticket-holders began sounding off on Buell's Facebook page about how unhappy they were. Fans requesting refunds for past events were called "trolls" and "haters" by Buell and his team of administrators that run the page. Inquiries and comments from fans were ignored and were eventually deleted by Buell and his team of administrators.
Customers that messaged Buell and PRS requesting refunds received a copy-and-pasted excuse stating that PayPal had frozen Buell's account and refund requests had to go through PayPal. A rep from PayPal responded on July 15 that the company was not holding payments from Buell's account and that the funds are still in the seller's account.
"I can confirm that these payments are in no way held by PayPal as they are still in the seller's PayPay account after your payments were successfully completed," a PayPal rep said in response to an inquiry from one of Buell's customers about a refund. "You can request a refund by sending the seller an email. Ask the seller to go to the Transaction Details page for your transaction and click "Issue a refund." You can request a refund up to 60 days after you pay for your item," the rep said.
After bombardments from fans, Buell sent his pal and former "Paranormal State" cast-mate Sergey Poberezhny to do some damage control.
"Refunds are being given out, but it is unfortunately a very slow process. One of the things we know we have faltered on is communication and customer service. We are looking into several services and ways that can help us ensure we are able to improve in this area. We are not sure why there are people claiming that we never announced an event postponement, but we did send out several emails. We will agree that some of the emails could have been sent out earlier, and for that we take responsibility on and are sorry for the inconvenience, stress, and aggravation it has caused," Poberezhny said on Buell's behalf via his Facebook page.
Many fans wondered why Buell didn't personally address the issue and some of them believe Poberezhny hijacked Buell's Facebook page to commit fraud and steal their money. Oddly enough after cancelling tour dates in Canada, new tour dates for US cities were added on Buell's Facebook page amid the controversy.
"Join Michelle and I for our 'Conversations with the Dead Tour'. We are hitting up Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, and surprise visits to two other Texas cities, July 14-28, 2014," Buell said in a Facebook post on June 20.
The "Conversations with the Dead Tour" was originally scheduled to be a 6-city lecture tour from April 25 through May 6 earlier this year. Psychic-medium and former "Paranormal State" guest star Chip Coffey was supposed to join Buell on the lecture tour but he backed out of the event. The tour was ultimately cancelled and rescheduled for this summer.
"Numerous individuals have reached out to me regarding a recent article on Examiner.com about Ryan Buell. My only comment is this: It is my sincere hope that those who are seeking refunds for tickets or classes purchased will receive those refunds very soon. Although I was slated to go on the 'Conversations with the Dead' tour alongside Ryan, I chose to withdraw from the tour for personal and professional reasons. As previously stated, I was never in possession of any funds collected for ticket sales for that tour Additionally, I have not, for several years, been involved in or associated with other tours, classes, etc. offered by Ryan and/or PRS, other than two events that did occur as planned in Raleigh, NC last year," Coffey said in a statement via his Facebook page on June 20.
As a result of the controversy, Coffey has distanced himself professionally from Buell and PRS. It was revealed that Buell owes his fans thousands of dollars in refunds and Coffey insists that has nothing to do with it.
"The only details that truly matter are this: people are seeking refunds and not getting them. Six figures!" Coffey said in response to an angry fan on his Facebook page.
After Coffey jumped ship, other former "Paranormal State" cast-mates started to throw Buell under the bus. On Buell's birthday, Michelle Belanger made a public announcement via her Facebook page that she was backing out of the "Conversations with the Dead" lecture tour and any future events that she was scheduled to do with Buell.
"It's Tuesday, July 8th, and the 'Conversations with the Dead Tour' was rescheduled for this month. After Chip Coffey had to bow out of the tour, Chris Edwards handled rescheduling and I was asked to fill in for Chip," Belanger said in a Facebook post. "The tour sounded like fun and I haven't been traveling as much as I used to. A lot of fans really wanted to see me. I've cut down on appearances so I could focus on my writing but I felt like I could swing a month on the road," she continued.
Belanger was supposed to join Buell on the first leg of the US lecture tour in the Boston area on July 14 but like all of the other events, the event was also cancelled.
"I have no plane tickets, no hotel reservations, no idea what the plan is supposed to be. That's not for lack of asking. That's just how things stand," Belanger said about the tour. She said that she will not be participating in any future PRS events if the dates get rescheduled again. "I know my friends from PRS have a great deal of things going on in their lives - I probably know more than most. But there comes a time when one must admit that their life is too chaotic to responsibly make commitments -- especially with other peoples' money. And I won't continue to enable that," Belanger said.
According to Belanger, other PRS members quit when the controversy started to pile up. Chris Edwards and Eilfie Music have both called it quits and neither of them are responding to correspondence in regards to Buell or PRS.
After Belanger bowed out, Buell sent Poberezhny and his admins to do some damage control in regards to the alleged scams.
"Director Ryan Buell has previously communicated with ticket purchasers for the 'Conversations with the Dead' lectures. Although Ryan and PRS had high hopes of putting on this series, we are unable to do so. The lecture series is being cancelled," Poberezhny posted on Buell's Facebook page on July 14. "Given the recent setbacks related to 'Conversations with the Dead,' PRS will not be scheduling any appearances in the immediate future. We hope that these circumstances change sooner rather than later. PRS also intends to honor those commitments relating to online courses which have been put on hold. Also, PRS intends to continue with the Bureau, although we are not scheduling any events in the near future," he said.
It appeared that Poberezhny's statement wasn't enough. Fans insisted on hearing amends from Buell himself. He eventually posted an apology and attempted to show remorse by making an excuse, claiming health issues were at fault.
I am deeply sorry to have disappointed you. It breaks my heart, and I apologize most sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
I wanted to complete the tour. However, in addition to the PayPal issues, unexpected serious medical issues arose repeatedly, complicating things in ways that you cannot imagine.
I am an extremely private person and I did not want to come forward with my medical issues.
We need time and space right now to recover and regroup. We will be offline for a while…
Please pray for us. Thank you for your forgiveness, understanding and compassion.
This isn't the first time that Buell has been accused of scamming his fan-base. In 2013 he was under attack from fans when they claimed that he ripped them off by not sending them a copies of a DVD that they ordered. Buell made a public announcement via Youtube last October regarding shipments of the "American Ghost Hunter" film and assured fans that they would get their copies eventually. Most fans were left waiting for their copy for over a year and some of them still haven't received one.
A few customers claim that they've received refunds from Buell regarding the DVD sales but most have been left waiting for over a year for them. One fan summed up the situation with this, saying: "Ryan robs Peter to pay back Paul."
In the summer of 2012, Buell announced to fans that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Some fans are wondering if Buell is pulling a similar stunt like former "Ghost Hunters" star Brian Harnois did. Harnois scammed his fans out of thousands of dollars from undelivered merchandise and cancelled events. Many people believe that Buell is using his celebrity status to do the same thing.
It appears that Buell is doing what the character Walter White did from the popular "Breaking Bad" television series. On the show, the former science teacher found out that he had cancer and ultimately decided to manufacture drugs as a quick way to generate income to pay his bills. Buell seems to be mimicking the character but instead of manufacturing drugs, he is scheduling fake events and rewarding himself with his fans' money.
Despite allegations of fraud, some of Buell's fans are sticking by his side and are standing up for him. Many of them are tired of PRS and all of the "Buellsh**" and they want their money back. Hopefully Buell mans up, stops using health issues as an excuse, and starts paying back the six-figure amount in refunds that he owes.
Investigative reporter and "Troubleshooter" Diane Wilson of Raleigh's ABC 11 Eyewitness News will have more on this story on Monday at 5 pm.
To file a report, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can be reached toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or a report can be submitted online through a form on their website. Additionally the United States Federal Trade Commission can be reached at 1-877-FTC-HELP or a report can be filed online via their website. To contact fraud investigators at the Wake County Sheriff's Office in Raleigh, North Carolina, call 919-856-6900 and ask to be connected to someone in the Fraud Unit. The Raleigh Police Department encourages people that have paid for events and haven't received refunds to call and make a police report at 919-996-3335.
To receive email alerts when a new article is posted from this author, click the SUBSCRIBE button.
If you enjoyed this article, click the subscribe button above to receive email updates when a new article is published. Join John on Facebook, follow on Twitter, or connect on Google+. For more information on the author, visit his website.