Let’s see if I can summarize this for everyone not up to speed. Andris Pukke is a long known figure in the debt relief industry. His appearance in the courts goes way back into the 1990s. The biggest explosion he was behind was a non-profit credit counseling company, Ameridebt.
Sanctuary Belize was a real estate development in guess where, Belize, that originally began life in an indirect way from money from Ameridebt/Pukke.
One of the people named in the FTC suit was Peter Baker. Baker and Pukke go way back to the start of activities by Pukke in Belize and even further back to their relationship in seventh or eighth grade in New York.
“Baker testifies he and Pukke have been best friends since seventh or eighth grade. Baker’s mother is Joan Medhurst and his stepfather is Colin Medhurst, both of whom also held ownership interests in Dolphin Development.” – Source
In a recent court filing by Baker in the FTC case against Ecological Fox it looks like Peter Baker backed the bus over Pukke, picked up his body, and then tossed it into a volcano.
Peter Baker says he is innocent of the deceptive marketing issues raised by the FTC because it was Pukke’s fault.
Baker says, “he had no knowledge of or involvement with the allegedly deceptive marketing of Sanctuary Belize that is at the heart of the Complaint. While an owner and/or officer of the Baker Corporate Defendants, Baker had no effective authority to control, or actual control, over these or any other corporate defendants. The entire operation was controlled solely and exclusively by Defendant Andris Pukke (“Pukke”) himself, who was the CEO, or through his right-hand man, Rod Kazazi (“Kazazi”). Baker was rarely in the California office, where the advertising, marketing, telemarketing and sales operations were centered, and was not even personally involved in the day to day affairs of the business until 2016-17.”
Baker goes on to blame Pukke directly for the lack of improvements promised to purchasers in the development. He says, “From meetings with the Receiver and Pukke, Baker has learned- which he never knew before – that Pukke in his role as CEO “borrowed and invested” money from the business without Baker’s knowledge or approval.”
Regardless of Baker’s longstanding involvement and relationship with Pukke over these many years as explained by the Ameridebt Receiver in detail, Baker says he’s the victim here. A claim made by many caught in the crosshairs. It’s not my fault!
Peter Baker states he is the victim in all of this because, “Baker believes this action never would have been brought and the development progress brought to a complete standstill – with his and his wife’s assets frozen, no means to pay for counsel, requiring that he be unrepresented, and his and his family’s life work in Sanctuary Belize in danger of being destroyed. As much as anyone else. Baker himself is a victim of the FTC’s action – even more so, in his humble opinion, that the vast majority of consumers who, contrary to the picture the FTC paints, are happy, satisfied owners.”
To further his claims of detachment and a lack of culpability in the deceptions alleged by the FTC, Baker says he, “has been uninvolved in the marketing and sales. Starting in 2016, he returned to Belize from Europe when Johnny Usher retired and became the chairman of the SRWR (Sittee River Wildlife Reserve). He was involved in overseeing daily operations in Belize, owner’s needs, legal issues, and answering questions for owners and prospective owners at social functions. As a non-manager, Baker did not even receive a salary, but lived off a business debit card controlled by Pukke and Kazazi until completion of the development, when he hoped to receive some greater compensation. As the Receiver has verified, he lived on a limited budget, between 2008-2018 with a total spending of $519,000, or about $50,000 a year. Living mostly in the same rental for 10 years and driving the same car since 2005, Baker lived frugally waiting for the completion of the development.”
The blame for deceptive marketing or missed marketing lays on others even though Pukke and Baker go way back. Baker says, “There have been many sales managers using different sales strategies. As the US political climate changed, so did the sales and marketing strategies. Pukke as CEO tried many different sales managers as well. Bill Bannon from 2008-2009. Luke Chadwick in 2009 and subsequently, Jim Catsos was brought in 2012 to make all sales and marketing decisions. After Catsos left in 2015, Brandi Greenfield, after many years of service, was elevated to sales manager. Baker was uninvolved in any aspect of the California operations besides being an owner of the companies he was aware of, as all of these individuals mentioned will attest. Baker did not make any sales, marketing or financial decisions. He trusted that what he was told by management was accurate and correct.”
And if there was ever a defense that rings hollow it was the “I trusted other people” and didn’t play a part. I find it shocking that Baker had no clue there were issues in play there. Back in 2013 when I wrote Sanctuary Belize, Andris Pukke, Todd Cook, Peter Baker & Ameridebt. Around that time Pukke was passing himself off allegedly as Marc Romeo to distance himself from being linked to the development and legal actions in the works.
Following that 2013 article, I received a nastygram [Look at the bottom of this post.] from lawyers representing the Sanctuary Belize project. Attorneys for the development said Andris Pukke “has no direct involvement with the development project.” They said he just the marketing genius.
From the statements made by Baker, we are to believe Baker played no role that led to the FTC to take action against the Defendants, the marketing was thoughtful and honest, unhappy participants are wrong, and Baker needs to be left the hell alone.
You can read the court filing here.
The saga continues and we will have to wait for the eventual outcome of yet another mess that names Pukke and Baker in various capacities. Their history together goes way back but unless Pukke and Baker agreed to toss Andris Pukke under the bus, I expect future efforts together, and maybe a high school reunion or two, will be a bit chilly.