Claiming Sucked Into “Investing” in Palm Springs Home Using Name of The King
PALM SPRINGS, CA –They gave their money with the expectation of a return on their investment. The return they were looking for was the preservation of the west coast home of Elvis Presley in Palm Springs.
Instead of their money going to buy the airplane used by Elvis, Elvis’s car and even embroidered Elvis baking aprons, they say the money was used only to support the lifestyle of the occupants of the Palm Springs Elvis home, Reno Fontana, his wife Laura Whittier, their son and Fontana’s mother-in-law.
They expected their money to go to the cause of The King but say it only went to support the lifestyle of someone trading off the Elvis name and living like a King himself.
“Reno told us we were helping to pay for THE Elvis limousine,” said Joe Gonzalez who says he lost $20,000 in family money. “He ended up buying a junky old Cadillac that was the same year as one of the Elvis cars but it wasn’t a real Elvis car. We didn’t get paid back. None of us ever did.”
Others made similar allegations.
“He said we would get paid back right away,” said Teri Ayala-Coco, “My husband [Richard Coco, a singing Elvis impersonator email@example.com] did a show there at the house and that’s how we got to know Reno. He said he needed money to keep hold of the house. We loaned him $2,500 and he said we would get paid back right away. We got nothing except an email that he wanted $6,500 more. When we said we didn’t have it that was the last we heard from him.”
If keeping the house afloat meant paying the mortgage that also was not done as per the contractual agreement according to the investors in the Elvis Presley Home. For all the years that Reno Fontana occupied the Elvis Presley home, Rade Raicevic and his business partner in Financial Bonanza, LLC had to pay the mortgage, insurance and property taxes.
They claim never to have received a single payment from Reno Fontana, only late fees and postponement payments. Raicevic says he purchased the property from Herman Jaehne, who said he also was not paid by Reno Fontana.
Jaehne says he failed with costly attempts to remove Reno Fontana from the property due to Fontana’s delaying tactics that eventually bankrupted him and forced the sale to Rade Raicevic.
Since Desert Vortex News first wrote about the troubles at the Elvis Presley Home, we have been contacted by what seems like a seemingly endless stream of people all saying they lost money through their association with Reno Fontana, all claiming they have been cheated in one way or another.
The amounts vary from a few hundred dollars for embroidered Elvis baking aprons to hundred thousand dollars in investment schemes. All say their money was not a gift but rather loans or investments made with the expectation of being paid back.
Last week another unsolicited email recently arrived in our office. While life goes on for many who allege they lost money to Reno Fontana, the most touching story to reach our desk is from a victim suffering the smallest amount, only $250.
For this ordinary person with a love for Elvis, the loss was the same as a million dollars is to a millionaire. A sweet lady who does embroidery became an unwitting victim of the Reno Fontana scheme.
The Elvis Presley Barbeque Aprons
The six previous installments in our series about the Elvis Presley Home on Chino Canyon in Palm Springs explored a wide range of the foible that embroil and enrage those we have talked to variety of aspects – including Reno Fontana himself.
We published verbatim the communications we received from Reno Fontana that threatened to file a lawsuit against us. He has since refused to reply to our inquiries, unwilling to address all those who have challenged his version of events.
The last communication we received from Reno Fontana was after we published an article about artist Jeffrey Howe who claimed that Fontana screwed him out of payments owed him for the artwork and that Reno Fontana made off with iconic artwork Elvis silhouette mounted to the outside of the Presley Home.
It may just be that everyone who has contacted us with nothing nice to say about their business dealings with Reno Fontana is wrong and not wronged as they say.
But after piecing together financial and property records as we have done, it is hard not to feel the pain of the business associates, title holders and apron embroiders who lost.
Those boxes of legal documents will determine if this time Reno Fontana loses. He is next scheduled to appear in Indio Superior Court where a judge will – eventually – come to a conclusion.
So far, Raicevic and his business partner in Financial Bonanza, are not backing down. Their next court appearance is Monday, June 10, where many people are hopeful for what might be a final showdown with Fontana to set the record straight.
Desert Vortex News will conclude this article in our series by letting you read in her own words the details of someone that says they are a victim. It is an email we received just a few days ago.
Thursday June 6, 2013: 5:49 PM Hello Desert Vortex, I read your article on the Presley Estates being in limbo and thought perhaps you could help me.
I have been trying to reach Reno Fontana and/or Laura Whittier for a long time now. Back in September 28, 2011 I sold them 15 custom aprons (photo attached) for them to sell at the Presley Estates. Laura had sent me a check, and I’m sure you’ve guessed but it bounced.
After finally reaching her, which she told me she was too exhausted to deal with me as they had just returned from a vacation and said Reno would contact me. I’ve had several emails from them consistently promising me the funds but to date have only received 1 money order of $25 towards the $225 bounced check & $50 in bank fees owed.
Last communication was an email received from Reno in December promising, yet again, full monies as he’s expecting to win a big lawsuit in May. Well we know how that worked out.
I’ve tried emailing again, calling the numbers–which now don’t work and would appreciate any help you could extend to me on how to contact either of them as I’m still trying to recoup my funds for goods/services provided to them in September 2011.
I have emails, voice mail, hand written and type written notes from him acknowledging this money is due to me but still nothing.
I am a small time stay at home mom that sells custom embroidered items out of my home. I took them upon their word as our first transaction was for 2 aprons, paid by money order (which was good).
When Laura called me 9-25-11 to say she needed 15 aprons ASAP for a function they were having I immediately located all the materials, custom embroidered all 15 and shipped them out to her without first having secure funds.
Sorry to ramble but again if you could give me any information in which to hunt them down so I can try to recover my money I would appreciate it greatly. Sincerely, Theresa Carter [/module] To contact Theresa Carter - Tiny Crafts Ebay or Tiny Crafts Facebook
The Elvis Presley Palm Springs Estate DVD by Huell Howser
Have you done business with Reno Fontana or Lori (Laurie) Whittier? Let’s talk. Please contact us here.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader.
In 2014 he was appointed Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.