Many sign up for easy money from 'The Hobo Prince'

Many sign up for easy money from 'The Hobo Prince' »Play Video
Shelby Bell.

PORTLAND, Ore. - This is a story about hopes and dreams, and the man selling them to you.

He goes by the name Shelby Bell with an address in Longview, Wash.

He's the author of the book "The Hobo Prince." It's a rags-to-riches tale that he's turned into his Hobo Prince Economic Project which promises you a fortune for just a small administrative fee.

Ron Buchholz signed up for the project because he is behind on his bills and is working to keep his business going – a fireplace shop on 82nd Avenue.

"Catching up on my mortgage payment, that was probably my best dream for the money," said Buchholz.

He signed up at a seminar at a local church. The project developer says he will give you, and 7 million other people, $900 a week for seven years.

All you have to do is pay him $25 first.

"Getting $900 a week, that's great, you know. I'm going, twenty-five bucks, nine hundred bucks - this is a no-brainer," Buchholz said.

He encouraged family and friends to sign up and pay too.

"It was kind of a high for a while," said Jan, a local business owner who did not want to be identified. "Shelby was saying how it would get the economy going, and we could start hiring people and getting people circulating back working."

At the seminar, Bell read from his book and told people he has access to about $350 billion that he is giving to you.

Plus, his site promises the first 10,000 people to sign up will get a free computer.

"He's a very charismatic, humorous (guy)," said Jan.

"To stand up in front of all those people and promise 900 dollars a week, I figured that took a lot of nerve. I thought this must be legitimate," Buchholz said.

Jan and Buchholz say they saw hundreds signing up – some professionals, an attorney, an accountant and some in need of help.

"I just got over a pretty bad logging accident and had a bunch of metal put in my neck," said Mark Hall who signed up for the project. "And I'm like, you know, kinda a little bit displaced from work and wow, nine hundred dollars a week sounds pretty refreshing."

"I can do this on-going for a period of time and put myself on the map," said Thomas Miller who signed up for the project. "I can buy that house that I wish to buy."

"I can imagine my daughters and grandchildren prospering from this and having a better life," said Linda Gary who also signed up for the project.

But Jan says the payments are not arriving as promised.

"It keeps extending out: It'll be soon, it'll be soon," she said. "When is soon and how soon is soon? Because a lot of people thought they'd have their money by now."

The KATU Problem Solvers went in undercover to a recent seminar at the Jantzen Beach mall.

The Problem Solvers found that the Hobo Prince contract says a company named Dashwood, Brewer and Phipps in London is carrying out Shelby Bell's financial scheme – a complicated insurance plan. But Dashwood, Brewer and Phipps said they have no business with Shelby Bell.

The KATU Problem Solvers went to see the Hobo Prince in person and told Bell they wanted to do a story about his project. Bell didn’t want to do the interview that day and suggested Saturday.

When questioned where the money is coming from Bell, said it is “"coming from an IPI sale which is an intellectual property package."

He said the money is his.

He declined to answer any other questions, including one about what evidence he had to prove he had the money to give out to people, until the Saturday interview.

But on Saturday, Bell was nowhere to be found.

"What I'm seeing now is it was a mistake, and I'm actually embarrassed that I talked so many people into going," said Buchholz. "It kind of dashes your dreams."

"It's the hope, the false misrepresentation that isn't right," said Jan.

Washington and Oregon authorities are investigating whether Shelby has broken any laws but he has not been charged with anything.