FLIP THIS HOUSE SCANDAL THREATENS TO ROCK CREDIBILITY OF SHOW!

SAM LECCIMA COULD BE IN BIG TROUBLE FOR FAKING FLIPS!

On an episode of A&E’s popular reality series “Flip This House,” Atlanta businessman Sam Leccima sits in front of a run-down house and calls buying and selling real estate his
passion. Now authorities and legal filings claim that Leccima’s true passion was a series of scams that included faking the home renovations shown on the cable TV show and claiming to have sold houses he never owned. “This is, indeed, a con artist,” said Sonya McGee, an Atlanta
pharmaceutical representative who says Leccima took $4,000 from her in an investment scheme. McGee and others say Leccima’s episodes of “Flip This House,” A&E’s most popular show, were elaborate hoaxes. His friends and family were presented as potential homebuyers and “sold” signs were slapped in front of unsold houses. They say the home repairs — the lynchpin of the show — were actually quick or temporary patch jobs designed to look good on camera.
Leccima says he never claimed to own the homes. While not acknowledging his televised renovations were staged, he didn’t deny it and suggested that A&E and Departure Films, the production company that makes the show, knew exactly what he was doing. “Ask anybody who works in television how a reality show is made and you’ll find that ours was a very typical approach,” Leccima said in a telephone interview. When it recently learned of the claims against Leccima, the cable network pulled reruns of his episodes off the air and wiped his mentions from its Web site.
Leccima, 36, presented himself as a successful real estate investor during the 2006 season of the cable show, which depicted him buying, refurbishing and reselling Atlanta-area homes for
profits of $77,000 and more. But Leccima doesn’t have a real estate license — it was revoked by the Georgia Real Estate Commission in 2005, with the panel ruling he “does not bear a good reputation for honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, and competence.” Now he’s under investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office for securities fraud.
Leccima said his lawyer advised him against talking about the investigation or the claims made by McGee and others. He did say that some of the criticism stems from his high profile.
“I’m a business person and I think I have as many people that like me as don’t like me,” he said. “Anyone who puts their face on national television should realize they’ve signed a Faustian
deal of sorts.” However, Atlanta-area real estate records show Leccima never owned several of the homes he’s been shown fixing up on television. WAGA-TV in Atlanta, which first aired the claims against Leccima, has shown footage from inside one of the homes, which had
mismatched wooden floors and unpainted patched walls that were out of the view of TV cameras on “Flip This House.” McGee said she attended what was billed as a wrap party at one
home. But when the party was shown on “Flip This House,” it was presented as an open house at which someone expresses interest in buying the property. New York-based Departure Films did not return repeated telephone calls to its offices by The Associated Press. A&E spokesman Dan Silberman said the network has stopped working with Leccima, who doesn’t appear in this season’s episodes.