A group of conservative investors in Tennessee is suing a California businessman for allegedly conning them into investing in Tea Party HD, a TV channel aimed at tea partiers, that they say turned out to be a scam.
Tea Party HD was founded by Bill Hemrick and Anthony Loiacono in 2010, but Hemrick and the other complainants claim that Loiacono never put in his share into the project and used the rest of the funds as his "personal bank account." The complaint says he used the money "to pay himself, his family members and his business, Heads & Tails Inc., ‘exorbitant rates' for the few projects Tea Party HD undertook," according to Brandon Gee of The Tennessean.
"The alleged purpose of Tea Party HD was to be the ‘world's first HD provider of news about the Tea Party,'" the lawsuit states. "In reality it was an investment scheme to defraud politically conservative-minded citizens who support the Tea Party mission."
Also listed in the suit are Howard Luartes, Reinhold Holtkamp, Melvin W. Martin, James Hearn and James Huffnagle, who say they invested a combined total of $287,500 in Tea Party HD, after Loiacono projected that the venture would make $19 million in three years. The suit requests $19 million in punitive damages and a return of the initial investments.
Loiacono told the Tennessean, in response to the suit, that he would challenge Hemrick to settle it through a televised "lie detector challenge" - and if he wins Hemrick would have to drop the suit and cover Loiacono's legal fees.
Tea Party HD is probably most famous for operating that camera that Michele Bachmann stared into - instead of the camera operated by CNN that was carrying the live broadcast - during her Tea Party Express rebuttal (to the rebuttal) of President Obama's State Of The Union address.
Prior to that speech, Loiacono wrote in a press release with TPX: "Our new Media Technologies and social network solutions are among the best in the business. Our Media Technologies have been developed for today's Fortune 50 companies which ensure connectivity to this grass roots movement."
TeaPartyHD.com is still active, though the blog for the site hasn't been updated since November, 2010. The site includes a Tea Party Express channel, and a link to a "contribute" page for the TPX.
Hemrick is a founder of the Upper Deck baseball card company - for which Loiacono was previously a top exec (though the company sued him for patent infringement) - and a bigwig in conservative fundraising. He is acting as the Tennessee financial director for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign, and has also done fundraising for Herman Cain, the Tennessean reports.
But Hemrick has also locked horns with others in the Tea Party movement, like when he sued Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation in March, 2010 for reneging on a deal over that year's Tea Party Convention. Hemrick said he loaned Tea Party Nation $50,000 that went toward the $100,000 speaking fee given to keynote Sarah Palin, on the condition that he could be involved in the PAC Phillips said he was going to put together. Hemrick says Phillips backed out, barred him from Palin's speech, and then trash-talked him to other Tea Party Nation supporters.
Loiacono has previously been sued over a proposed ‘virtual reality online" project that also never materialized, News Channel 5 reports.