Caveat Emptor: Letter to My Prison Consultant Who Delivered Nothing He Promised

In light of recent prosecutions against some unscrupulous prison consultants, I researched my files and found this letter I sent to the prison consultant that I had hired when I was at my most scared and vulnerable. I never heard from him again and never received the return of the money I had paid him for delivering nothing he promised. Since, we have found there are some prison consultants (very few) that can deliver some value, but it is definitely caveat emptor.

This is one reason as a ministry we started the first confidential online no-cost White Collar/Nonviolent Support Group; meeting #159 is this Monday 7 pm ET, 4 pm PT. If you, a friend, family member, colleague or client are in need, or have been ripped off by an unscrupulous prison consultant, please go to our contact page or write us at: Rev. Jeff Grant, Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc., PO Box 1, Woodbury, CT 06798. – Jeff 

August 4, 2007

David Novak, Prison Consultant

Salt Lake City, Utah 84102

Re:       Refund of Consulting Fee

Dear David:

As you should know, I have recently arrived home after my incarceration of 13 ½ months at Allenwood Low Security Correctional Institution in White Deer, Pennsylvania, and then approximately five weeks in a halfway house in Hartford, Connecticut.

Approximately 18 months ago I learned that I had been designated to report to a “low security” institution and not a “camp” as my lawyer advised me would likely be the case.  Upon their advice, I then retained you as my prison consultant /expediter to (1) attempt to change my designation to a camp, and, if you were unable to do so in the few weeks before I had to report, to (2) attempt to have me transferred to a camp soon after my arrival at the low security institution.  You told me that you were capable of achieving both of these goals and that you had accomplished same many times in the past on behalf of other similarly situated clients.  Most importantly, you represented that you had contacts inside the Bureau of Prisons that respected your judgment and would likely change my designation based upon it.  You assured me that you could, would and promised to work quickly, efficiently and effectively on my behalf, and that you would be in constant and continual communication with me at all times, both before and after I reported to prison.  Based upon these representations, and seemingly with little other choice, I paid you your requested retainer in full.

From that moment forward, you delivered to me no value whatsoever.

  1. From the outset, you failed to tell me that Bureau of Prisons had recently closed down its regional designation offices, rendering your alleged contacts useless, and had centralized its designation offices to Grand Prarie, Texas.  Had I known that your contacts were no longer in positions to change my designation, I would never have retained you.
  2. As far as I can tell, you made no other attempts to have my designation changed before I reported (how could you, you had no contacts left).   I never received any accounting from you of any attempts on your part to have my designation changed from a low to a camp (i.e. telephone calls made on my behalf, contacts made, information packets transmitted, etc.).
  3. In fact, you were clandestine and circumspect when I asked you how things were going.   You told me that that this was due to the nature of the representation as if you were a spy. I had no choice but to believe you.
  4. Once your “attempt” to have my designation failed and I reported to the low security institution, I received no guidance from you as to how to handle matters of the next goal of an attempt to transfer me to a camp as soon as possible.  You did manage to let me know however that you were going on a month-long vacation which coincided exactly with my report to prison, and would be unavailable to work on my behalf during that time.  Of course, you withheld this information when I retained you less than four weeks before.
  5. I had to learn on my own during that month that I had a low enough security level to have been designated to a camp (my level was 0) but there was no room in the camps on the day on was designated.  So I was designated to a low security institution with a “management variable” which allowed me to be there despite my level.  I learned that the management variable lasts one year.  You knew this, or should have known this, at the time of your retention and should have advised me that it would be impossible for me to be transferred from the low to a camp before the expiration of the year period.  Yet, you failed to tell me this before I retained you and instead accepted my retainer payment under false premises.
  6. Accordingly, there was no reason whatsoever for me to have retained you.  You had no contacts with which you could have achieved goal one, and due to my management variable, goal two was impossible. You withheld both facts from me at the time of your retention.
  7. I never heard from you once during my entire incarceration other than one brief note, in response to one of my letters to you, telling me to “keep up the good fight”.  You never answered your cell phone the many times I tried to reach you, although you promised when I retained you that I’d “always” be able to call you on your cell phone and even though you know how hard it is for inmates to use the telephone. 

I was vulnerable and you took advantage of me.  You held yourself out as an expert and skilled professional in the field with special knowledge and contacts.  I was in no position to protect myself.  I was forced by my circumstances to trust you. I was frightened and would have agreed to almost any anything just for the hope of re-designation to a camp.  You knew this; this is your lifeblood.  You lied in every instance.  You left me out of time, out of money, defenseless with no other options.  Like a true confidence man, you created false hope and then used it to your advantage.

I shudder to think how many other of your clients were treated this way (although it shouldn’t be too difficult to find them and find out).  The small sample I polled at Allenwood all had similar experiences to mine.  But none, or at least not many of them I assume, practiced law for over twenty years, as I have, and know how to protect their interests upon their release. 

I want my money returned immediately so that I do not have to take this matter further and resort to litigation and regulatory intervention.  I trust when you consider this you will finally do the right thing.

I expect your certified check within ten days to close this matter.

Very truly yours, 

Jeff Grant

P.S. David Novak was later wanted for murder. The widow won a multi-million dollar civil judgment against him. Watch the NBC Dateline story here.

Link to our Contact page here.

Link to Jeff Grant’s bio here.  

Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 1, Woodbury, CT 06798