Premiere Props Horror Story

Prop Store

rkpetersen

Well-Known Member
Saw this over at the MPF; Mr. Sullivan has given his permission to repost this on other sites.

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Tim Sullivan..
Last week I found myself in the El Segundo Police Station having been brought in for questioning for the theft of my own belongings.

I kid you not.

As the Detectives detained me, questioning me for over four hours, I could not decide whether I somehow got transported into an episode of DRAGNET or THE TWILIGHT ZONE. In retrospect, it was a bit of both.

How I got there is quite a story. It might take a few moments to read- but if you are a consignor considering consigning with Dan Levin or Premiere Props, this cautionary tale may save you from a similar experience.

Let me begin at the beginning...

I make my living as an independent filmmaker primarily working in the horror genre. My credits include the 2001 MANIACS franchise with Robert Englund, as well as the recent CHILLERAMA anthology film. I also served as host on vH1's SCREAM QUEENS for Season 2. By no means on the level of a Stephen Spielberg or George Lucas, I have managed to carve out a modest living, and I would not go unrecognized by fan boys at a horror convention.

Last August, 2011, I was looking to auction off some of the costumes and memorabilia from MANIACS and CHILLERAMA. After doing some research, I discovered an auction house called Premiere Props that seemed to specialize in genre collectibles. When I saw that they worked with FANGORIA magazine, for which I once wrote for, I figured these were the guys. I gave them a call, and was handed over to the owner of Premier Props, Dan Levin.

Dan seemed like a decent guy, was aware who was, and was eager to check out my items. We arranged for him to come over my bungalow in Venice Beach, Ca. After arriving two hours late (my first warning bell), Dan and I spent several hours going over the items. Also in attendance, per my invitation, was Earl Roesel, a very good friend of mine who had acted in CHILLERAMA and served as my personal assistant on 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS.

Earl had also been the final caretaker of beloved horror icon/ultimate collector Forrest J Ackerman. In fact, dear Uncle Forry drew his final breath in Earl's presence. It was through our mutual connection to Forry that Earl and I met and connected. His knowledge of motion picture factoids and ephemera is unparalleled by any one I personally know. Over the past three years, I have grown to deeply respect Earl, and trust him with my life.

I asked Earl to be present so that he could offer to Levin for consignment a collection of his Ackerman memorabilia.

Dan was very excited by the prospect of auctioning both my stuff as well as Earl’s. We shook hands that the first batch ( the MANIACS costumes and the Ackerman memorabilia) would be auctioned in the then upcoming October horror auction held in conjunction with FANGORIA magazine. NO WRITTEN AGREEMENT WAS SIGNED BY ANY OF US. It was always a verbal, gentleman’s understanding that we would see how things went at the October auction, and take it from there.

A few weeks later, I received a call from Dan reporting to me that his assistant, a gentleman named Eric Fleming, had ‘moved on’, and that he was desperately in need of someone who could replace him. He asked if I thought Earl would fit the bill. Unable to think of anyone more perfect for the slot, I fully endorsed Earl. Earl started the very next week, mid-August.

In his new role as Director Of Consignments, Earl’s job was to solicit items for auction from consignors, collectors and celebrities. Blessed to know quite a few icons in the rock and horror industry, I offered to reach out to several of my friends for the mutual benefit of all. Dan verbally agreed to give a 5% commission to be split by Earl and me for any collectibles we brought in.

My first stop was my buddy Tom Holland, who agreed to test the waters by consigning original storyboards and documents from his FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILDS PLAY films. Tom also agreed to show up and appear on camera during the live taping of the October auction.

To both mine and Earl’s horrified embarrassment, the auction was an unorganized mess. Nothing went on schedule, and Tom was left sitting in a cluttered room for over two hours because Dan Levin had not properly organized the day’s itinerary. Tom grinned and bore it out of friendship to myself and Earl, but he was obviously not happy.
Further adding to the day’s unprofessionalism was a computer screw-up that occurred during my on-camera appearance to auction off my MANIACS costumes. Somehow, the auctioning software did not work properly, and bidders were unable to bid in real time- preventing a proper bidding process. As a result, not only were many irate fans unable to place wining bids, my items sold for far less than they could have sold for. When I confronted Dan with this- he assured me that this was not the case, and that the glitch did not affect any bidding.

I guess in retrospect, I only have myself to blame for not fleeing then and there. But Dan made a good case for himself, and truly seemed to be a good guy. And so I agreed to cautiously continue my relationship with him and Premier Props.

In this regard, I reached out to another friend, Joe Dante, who I knew had some valuable Gremlins prototypes in his possession. Joe agreed to auction these one of a kind items in the December auction.

As we got closer to the December auction, I had still not been paid for my MANIACS costumes sold in October. I told Dan I would not auction off anything else till I was paid. And so my CHILELRAMA items were pulled from the auction. With the December auction getting even closer, I told Dan I would pull Joe and Tom unless I was paid. Ultimately, I was, though too late to put my CHILLERAMA items on the auction block.

And so the December auction took place. Not wishing a repeat of what happened to Tom Holland, Earl pre-recorded a segment with Joe at his office, which was played live during the December auction. Tom also auctioned off some more documents, but did not make a personal appearance.

As expected, the Gremlins items went for high amounts. Joe was quite pleased. Dan said he would make sure Joe and Tom would be paid by early February, what with everyone needing to get thought he Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

As we got deeper into January, Earl began to confess to me some very unsavory things he was witnessing at Premiere Props. He was constantly fielding irate phone calls from consignors who were still owed money from the October auction. Employee paychecks were bouncing, including his own. Warehouse workers were quite forthcoming to Earl of tales of insurance fraud (admittedly hearsay- but supposedly a worker was ‘let go’ when she refused to exaggerate on an insurance claim the property value of items stolen in a ‘break-in’ at the warehouse).

Most troubling were tales of Dan taking the cash intake due consignors to instead make personal investments, hoping these investments would pay off and yield personal profits before too much time transpired and consignors started knocking on the door for their auction profits.
At this point, I decided I would no longer work with Dan Levin and Premier Props, however I did not wish to tip him off until Tom Holland and Joe Dante received their profits from the December auction in addition to receiving the 5% commission due me and Earl.

At this point Earl also decided he would eventually move on from Premiere Props not willing to be an unaware accomplice in any shady dealings. We also both felt that if Earl stayed there, he could perhaps help insure that Tom and Joe were paid.

But as January dragged into February and Joe and Tom were still unpaid, along with every other consignor from the December auction, things began to escalate. It was around this time that Earl heard through the grapevine that Dan had made some bad investments, and did not have the cash to pay any consignors. His supposed game plan was to hold everyone off till the March auction, using the money from that auction to pay off the consignors in April.

Upon hearing of this, I was livid. This coupled with Tom and Joe asking for their profits led to me to confront Dan. As usual, Dan was defiant and filled with BS rationale. According to our conversations, his business policy is to not pay any consignors until enough time goes by allowing for customers to be satisfied with their purchases. His rationale was, say he paid Joe Dante the money for the Gremlin and then the customer who bought asked for a refund or ‘charge back’ having decided the item was unauthentic. How could Dan then ask Dante for the money back?

Okay- that seemed to make sense- except for this. Joe actually KNEW the person who bought the Gremlin. The man had paid for it immediately and had told Joe he was thrilled with it. Same with the guy who bought the Tom Holland items.

Further more- Dan claimed to me that he paid no one till everyone was 100% pleased with their purchases. His reasoning for this was- should there be a large charge back amount as in the current case of a customer questioning authenticity (as there had been in the case of a Superman costume sold at the December auction), the chargeback would put the balance in his bank account into the negative.

This statement of Dan’s was completely contradictory to what he had earlier told me.

For if NOBODY was paid till every customer was pleased, then theoretically, all the proceeds from the auction would be sitting in a bank account untouched. In other words- if the guy who bought the Superman costume wanted his money back- Dan’s return of that money should in no way dip into the money in the account from Joe’s Gremlin.

Unless…

Dan had taken all that money and put it elsewhere. Like his own pocket for personal use or investment.

When I questioned Dan on this- he suddenly went radio silent, telling me he would be away in New York for a week but would get back to me upon is return and ‘explain’.

As calls poured in to Earl from enraged consignors looking for their money, and Joe and Tom remained unpaid and annoyed, I emailed Dan and his wife Dawn daily requesting that Joe, Tom and myself be paid immediately, and that until we were, I would no longer vouch for them nor would I continue to have any business dealings with them. Perhaps I should have been more specific, but I assumed that it was clear that this meant I would NOT be auctioning off my CHILLERAMA costumes that remained in their possession.

Letting Joe and Tom know that Earl and I would do everything we could to ensure they were paid, I asked Earl via email to please return my CHILLERAMA costumes. Among Earl’s many tasks was the return of unsold property to consignors. So asking Earl versus Dan for my stuff was following protocol.

And so- Friday, February 3rd, Earl went into the warehouse to locate my costumes. To his befuddlement, out of the hundreds of thousand of costumes in the warehouse, for some odd reason, Dan had taken my CHILLERAMA costumes and had them put into a room next to his personal office. Upon hearing this and receiving my items, I breathed a sigh of relief. With all I knew about Dan, I could only imagine what he had planned to do with those costumes……

The following Monday, February 6th, Earl showed up at work only to be fired by Dan. Dan’s reasons for firing him? Earl had put a customer in personal touch with actor Bo Hopkins so that the customer could purchase a couple of autographed scripts from Bo. Total cash exchanged- $200 of which Earl did not receive a penny.

According to Dan- this good deed for a sweet, aging man who needed some immediate cash and who was (and still is) owed $1000 from the December auction from Dan was a ‘breach of contract” with Earl attempting to initiate a rival business with Premiere Props while still in Premiere Props employ.

Unbelievable. But it got even worse.

The next day, Tuesday the 7th, both Earl and I received a call from a Detective at the El Segundo police station. According to the Detective, Dan Levin had filed criminal charges of Grand Theft against Earl naming me as the ‘mastermind’. We were told that we needed to come down to the station for questioning, otherwise face potential arrest.

Flabbergasted, we headed over immediately. Two Detectives took each of us into his office separately. For over four hours I was questioned, telling the Detectives the entire details of the above, as well as sharing with them printed copies of emails between me and Levin.

Apparently, Levin hacked into Earl’s personal email account and found an email exchange between us wherein I request my stuff back. Earl replies that he will get it the next day after hours. This was Levin’s basis for his criminal charges against me as the ‘master mind’ of a ‘crime’.

The Detective asked if I had ever signed an agreement with Dan saying he could auction my property. I had not and told him so, adding that if I had- I would like very much for Levin to produce it. According to the Detective, Levin said that I had indeed signed such a contract, but that earl had ‘destroyed it’.

Again- UNBELIEVABLE.

After hours of this, the Detective told me and Earl that he did not believe there was any ground for criminal charges, but that, although he thought it was all bull****, he would have to adhere to the letter of the law and send the case to the DA, who would then decide if this all merited a Civil matter, which could lead to me and Earl confronting Dan Levin down the road in court.

Which we BOTH would welcome, for as of this writing, 2/27/12, no one form the December auction has been paid, including Tom Holland, Joe Dante and Bo Hopkins. Earl and I have not been paid any of our commissions, and probably never will be.

All evidence points to Dan Levin indeed holding off from paying December consignors till sometime in April, after his upcoming March 24th auction.
God help those consignors who auction off stuff March 24th.. I can only wonder if and when they ever will be paid.

Dan’s firing of Earl Roesel and failed attempt to have us arrested and brought up on criminal charges are all a transparent smoke screen to deflect attention from his own wrongdoing, as well as a failed attempt to intimidate us from questioning, exposing and further delving into his business practices.

There is no way knowing what I do, as well as being victim of his practices, that I can stay silent on this.

I will not let this go until Joe Dante and Tom Holland are paid in full.

I also would hate to see anybody else be the victim of these scams.

And so I say- use my tale as food for thought should you be considering consigning items to Premiere Props.

Should you wish to give it a go- PROTECT YOURSELF with a contract that clearly and specifically defines the amount of time between when your item sells- and when you receive your payment.

Make sure to build into that agreement some type of financial penalty or forfeit of commission should Premiere Props not stick to the agreed upon payment schedule.
And whatever you do- make sure to officially request in writing any of your items in Dan Levin’s possession should you wish to have them returned to you, less you find yourself across the desk of the good men in blue at the El Segundo Police Station.
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And followup:

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I am pleased to report that the police just contacted me this morning to say that after a round table discussion with all teh detectives, they not only see no basis for criminal charges, they have decided NOT to file this as a civil matter withe the DA's office.

This is a major victory against Levin.

Now- if only he would pay Joe Dante, Tom Holland, Bo Hopkins and everyone else still owed money from the December auction.

As far as the commissions due me and Earl goes- we have filed with the Labor Board and Mr. Levin will be getting a nice letter from them.

Justice is justice and what's fair is fair.

What can is ay- I'm from Jersey!

TAHNKS EVERYBODY FOR THE KIND WORDS OF SUPPORT.
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batgremlin

New Member
WHAT THE HELL?! I was the buyer for the gremlin, and indeed I told Joe I was pleased with it. The only thing: Premiere props promised me a COA, but as I was not receiving it, I asked for it, and since then I have no reply. That's the only issue, but nothing like an "unauthentic" item, I never complained... so what?!
 

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Jedifyfe

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
At least half his own fault for not getting the whole thing in writing from the start.
I agree. Though I won't be consigning ANYTHING with Premiere Props in the future because of this.

I live only 1 mile from them.

I am amazed that the El Segundo police took thier time away from pulling over teenagers and elderly to investigate this. FYI, El Segundo is a small beach town that has WAY too much funding for the fire and police. The police get brand new cars EVERY year and the crime is literally ZERO!
 

Art Andrews

Community Owner
Community Staff
Wow, and I thought Premiere Props biggest issue was poor customer service, like I experienced when they sold me a broken prop...
 

The Prop Stop

Sr Member
Premiereprops Hollywood auction “Mirror Mirror” auction items confusion……items that sold reoffered? | the propstop's world of entertainment memorabilia

Pictures on the site.

Premiereprops Hollywood auction “Mirror Mirror” auction items confusion……items that sold reoffered?
Posted on March 19, 2012

March 10th 2012: I awakened very early for the “Mirror Mirror” costume pieces, all 10 of the items that were to be sold at the Hollywood “costume auction” that contained vast quantities of wardrobe from a hire company.

Unfortunately I was outbid on several of the items, some of which were offered as one off pieces, and have now mysteriously been added to the March 24th-25th 2012 LA based auction that is to take place this Saturday.

Unfortunately more than wasting my time and getting up early for the event what seems to have transpired is that either the items were not paid for or that the auction bidding has been corrupted….specifically since the items are appearing as SOLD on the LIVE auctioneers website here. As a viewer live of the “video feed” and the two auction services I was under the impression that these items were sold to floor and internet bidders. It seems this is not the case if this information is to be viewed at with an open eye…in fact no “internet” bids are registed as the winner…only “competing bidders”….which would be a floor bidder, phone bidder or the other “competing” internet site.
 

Art Andrews

Community Owner
Community Staff
Ehhh... it is easy to say that (really easy for Mic, since everything he has had to say for the past 6 months has been nothing more than pooping on people) from a third party perspective, but a lot of prop deals come out of friendships and acquaintances, not out of contracts.

Should you always get it in writing? Yes.

Should you have to? You really shouldn't.

I do a bit of business with Prop Store and while we do put things in writings many times, we don't always and it is more of a handshake and a knowledge of the person you are dealing with (in my case, with Brandon and Stephen). Whether it was in writing or not, I can't imagine Prop Store doing something like this in a thousand years and if we had a disagreement on something (and we have from time to time), I know that I could call them and get it worked out. I think it is more about picking the right people to work with than it is about paperwork. Not downplaying getting things in writing, as in this litigious society, you have little choice, but I think it is even MORE important to know who you are dealing with.
 

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batgremlin

New Member
My god... My fears seem to be legitimate: that gremlin sold exactly for my MAXIMUM bid... I thought it was VERY strange, as it was not a round number at all (I live in Belgium and my max bid in dollars was a conversion from Euros)... I was afraid they had artificially raised my bids until reaching my maximum... and apparently, it seems they are really able to do this!!! I couldn't imagine anyone would have bid just $10 under my completely illogical amount... as normally, the increment was of $500 at that stage... I asked to see the other bids at the time (I was already suspicious), but they said they kept no trace of anything as it was a live auction... seems I may have lost THOUSANDS because of their dishonesty?!
 

GKvfx

Sr Member
WHAT IN THE HELL...?

This freakin' hobby, I swear...
The problem is that when you add money to the mix - especially large amounts of money - and have people involved that take commissions and such, it ceases to be a hobby and becomes a business. And when you scale up the hobby to something like a auction house, paperwork becomes necessary. I'm surprised the consignor didn't ask for it and I'm surprised the auction house didn't demand it. Paperwork can protect both parties. Say what you will about Profiles and Propworx, but their policies are right there in the fine print.

I've helped a few friends consign/sell items to Profiles and Prop Store. Where paperwork isn't exchanged in person, e-mails are kept and referenced. Everything has been professional and above board.

Do not be afraid to ask for some type of receipt. Do not be afraid to ask for some kind of schedule 'A' that list the items, the estimated ranges, and the reserves (if any).

........I live only 1 mile from them.
I work in El Segundo and have been to a couple of their garage sales. None of the material would be anything worth mentioning on this forum - mostly furniture and set dressing stuff. Bought a couple of things for the house, but never really felt the need to take anything there for sale.

........I am amazed that the El Segundo police took thier time away from pulling over teenagers and elderly to investigate this. FYI, El Segundo is a small beach town that has WAY too much funding for the fire and police. The police get brand new cars EVERY year and the crime is literally ZERO!
Ha! At least one of our employees gets pulled over every week for something. You do NOT want to speed, do a California stop, drive w/out a license or anything like that in El Segundo....... The town may be like Mayberry, but the cops are definitely NOT Barney Fife.....

Gene
 

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woofpug

New Member
Did anyone see Dan Levin's appearance on Access Hollywood? Very unprofessional IMO.

Premier props has sold quite a bit of questionable items in the past. Personally I do not trust them.
 

Scareb

Sr Member
I'm really sorry to hear that dude. I hope everything gets sorted.

Oh and Art? Pot, meet Kettle.
 

The Prop Stop

Sr Member
The auction is today. I've heard several people who will be videoing the auction to make sure that bids are not backtracked over the internet, and one person should be taping the auction live from the floor of the event.
 

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