| Crime |

Man Allegedly Bilked Investors Out of $1 Million By Telling Them How Awesome His Trailer Hitches Were

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One evening during the summer of 1994, Karl Pratt was wrapping up a day at Lake Lewisville. It had been a satisfying outing but, as he backed his truck to the water's edge to pick up his boat, he realized his trailer had been stolen. Someone had cut the lock and taken off with it. It took him a week of haggling with the insurance company, $1,500 out of pocket, and two months of waiting before he could replace the trailer.

That's was Pratt's aha moment. What if he invented a device that protected one's trailer from being stolen while simultaneously guaranteeing that it won't slip off while traveling 70 down the freeway. Which is exactly what Pratt said he did. He established Safety Sentry, Inc. in 2009 and began selling the product. You can even watch him pitch it to the Granbury Chamber of Commerce.

To the 50 or so investors who wound up giving him more than $1 million, he said a lot of things. The product was patented, and the company was in talks with U-Haul and Ryder and very close to inking major deals. He sent an email notifying them that "the Hertz deal is done."

None of that ever happened, at least according to a wire fraud indictment filed yesterday in federal court. Pratt's patent applications were twice denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. And Hertz had never heard of the guy, according to an affidavit filed earlier by an FBI agent.

Even before the feds became involved, investors had grown suspicious. Robert Yonke and his company, filed an arbitration claim against Safety Sentry after Pratt failed to deliver on his promises. After Pratt failed to pay the agreed settlement, Yonke sued, claiming that not only was Pratt a con artist, he was caught on a wiretap attempting to hire a hit man to settle their dispute.

That plan fell through, and Pratt has bigger problems. He was arrested in January and has been in jail ever since, a U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton having determined that Pratt was a flight risk, not to mention a potential danger to the community.

Don't let that stop you from visiting the Safety Sentry website to check out the patented merchandise. But keep your credit card in your wallet. The site tells us the online store is currently closed for maintenance.

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