Matchmaker service cons elderly, disabled

Matchmaker service cons elderly, disabled

When Wesley Seelke, a 33-year-old mentally challenged Nederland man, walked into Matchmaker Matchmaker, he couldn’t have realized his dream of finding the love of his life would lead nowhere.

Matchmaker Matchmaker, a new dating service nestled in an industrial park on Interstate 10, has been making waves since its opening in July 2012. Red and white signs with “Southeast Texas Singles” have popped up across Beaumont and the surrounding area. But prospective and former employees at the new dating service said they were tired and disgusted with what they viewed as unethical business practices from the owner, Harvey Luna, who they said verbally abused clients, especially when it came to money. Luna charges as much as $10,000 for 24 “references” wherein Luna texts or e-mails clients the phone number of a prospective date. Many of Luna’s clients interviewed by The Examiner said dates were rare and those paired with Harvey’s “match” were scarred or disgusted by the experience. Clients felt pressured and lied to, and many, most of whom were elderly, disabled women, spent up to six hours in a small room until they signed Luna’s contract.

Former employees, clients speak out

Online complaints from former employees and clients are extensive. Luna was co-owner of a number of dating services in states across the country, and may have resulted to changing the service’s name or moving to another city when complaints became too widespread.

Complaints go back as far as 2004 and connect Luna to dating services such as The Right One and Two of Us Dating in Pennsylvania, Truly Happy in New Jersey and Together Dating and 2 of a Kind in Houston, with each company opening and closing within a few years, sometimes sooner.

His new business in Beaumont might have a different name — Matchmaker Matchmaker was incorporated under SageJax Inc. in July 2012 using Harvey’s real name, Javier Luna — but it seems Luna is utilizing some of the same high-pressure, unethical techniques to make clients cough up the cash.

According to numerous former employees — most of whom refused to be identified for fear of reprisal — Luna’s enrollment was based on income. If he couldn’t get thousands, Luna would lower the price until a client agreed.

Naomie Guidry said she walked out of a training session for Matchmaker Matchmaker when she was required to memorize scripts with dubious percentages and data designed to enroll clients.

“I was in the training process of becoming what they call a ‘female dating councilor,’” she said. “My official job duties would be pressuring these people when they come through the door and convincing them to sign a contract.”

It seems Guidry got out at the right time. Months later, at least two other employees would leave citing Luna’s verbal abuse and unethical business practices.

One former employee of Matchmaker Matchmaker who who asked that we identify her only as “Kate” to prevent retaliation, said Luna verbally abused both employees and clients, especially the latter, once it was clear they wouldn’t enroll in Luna’s service. The final straw for Kate was Luna’s unethical treatment of three clients — a recently widowed elderly woman, a diabetic who begged to leave and Wesley Seelke, a mentally challenged man from Nederland — all who were kept in Luna’s office for up to six hours until they signed for a membership.

“I did not condone this,” Kate said. “I did not think it was right.”

The Examiner caught up with Wesley Seelke and his mother, Judy Seelke, who said her son is on partial Social Security disability for his mental disorder.

“He has a speech problem and he’s mentally challenged,” Judy said of her 33-year-old son.

Judy said she is her son’s legal guardian and was shocked by the revelation that Luna had conned her son into a dating membership for which he has yet to see a single date.

“I didn’t know people were actually that mean,” she said.

According to Wesley’s contract, Luna received some $400 in cash on the day of Wesley’s consultation in March. Wesley must also pay some $213 a month for a total of about $4,000 for the membership.

After seeing her son’s contract, Judy said she understood how her son could be duped.

“He says yes to everything. He don’t argue. He’s always saying, ‘yes,’” she said of her mentally challenged son. “If there’s a problem he just agrees and says ‘yes.’ If someone calls, he’ll say ‘yes’ but he don’t know what he’s saying ‘yes’ to.”

Although Wesley works part time at the Port Neches Independent School District as a janitor, she said the majority of Wesley’s income is Social Security, which will go to Luna if Wesley is unable to break the contract.

Kate went on to say one of Luna’s major selling points — his “extensive database of singles” — is a farce. She said having been open for less than a year, Luna’s database of singles is not more than 250 people, compared to the thousands Luna claims to have.

“Something needs to be done,” she said.

A 76-year-old recently widowed woman was also one of Luna’s targets. In April, the woman, who asked that we identify her only as “Carrie,” said Luna pressured her into signing a $6,500 membership after almost six hours of high-pressure coercion.

“By that time I didn’t even know what I was doing,” she said. “I’ve never been that stressed out and confused in my life. I’ve never been pressured like that.”

She and at least three other clients said Luna used references to God and preacher Joel Olsteen to convince them it was God’s plan for them to have a thousand-dollar date.

“I guess I was just so depressed. He kept me there five hours or more. It was after dark before we got out of there. He never ever ever quoted a price,” she said. “He came in in the last 10 minutes and asked for a credit card. He got on his knees and badgered and badgered, ‘Joel Olsteen said this and Joel Olsteen said that,’ until I didn’t know where I was at.”

Carrie said her only source of income is Social Security and a small retirement from her husband who died less than three years ago, adding Luna used this to his advantage.

“I was so vulnerable,” she said.

A third client interviewed by The Examiner told the same story.

“He was relentless,” said a 65-year-old disabled woman who we will identify here only as “Barb.” “I mean, it was awful. He told me that he was gonna make sure that I signed the contract.”

Luna kept Barb in a small room for hours until she signed a $4,000 contract.

“I stayed with this man for three hours. He kept me in there,” she said. “I was so confused, nervous, under duress that I couldn’t hardly see straight. It was just intense.”

Barb and others said they never saw a price or amount on their contracts until they got home.

“‘I want you to go ahead sign these papers,’” Barb said Luna instructed her. “‘You can trust me. I’ll just tell you what they say.’ It was like I signed it just to get away.”

Once Barb actually received a date, however, it was clear Luna had no interest in making the match of a lifetime.

“The one time he sent me someone, he was kin to my ex in-law,” she said. “I mean, we had the same last name! Someone kin to my ex-husband. He was a dog.”

Luna’s hustle didn’t stop there.

Albert Geisendorff, a 63-year-old disabled veteran, said he was taken for some $3,400. After almost four hours of interrogation, Geisendorff said he signed just to escape.

“He wouldn’t tell me a price on anything until I had filled out all the paperwork and went through the interview, and then he came back after about three hours and laid that piece of paper showing $3,400, and I said, ‘Aww, no man. I ain’t got that kind of money.’”

Joel Olsteen and Jesus were a familiar selling point for Geisendorff, he said.

“He’d get between me and the door and start talking about Joel Olsteen and asking if I was a Christian,” he said. “When he started talking about that, I thought this was weird. I just signed the papers to get the hell outa there.”

According to the BBB of Southeast Texas, Luna’s Matchmaker Matchmaker had an F rating as of February 2013, based on one unanswered complaint. A call to Dispute Resolution director Jay Sheppard of the BBB revealed there have been at least two other complaints prompting Luna’s rating to change as of Wednesday, May 8. In an e-mail, Sheppard said  an alert has been posted on the Matchmaker Matchmaker BBB Business Review Report.  Consumers in need of assistance regarding Matchmaker Matchmaker should contact the BBB at www.bbb.org/southeast-texas/business-reviews/dating-service/matchmaker-matchmaker-in-beaumont-tx-90054961.

“Consumers in need of assistance regarding Matchmaker Matchmaker should contact the BBB at (409) 835-5348, or visit the BBB website at www.bbb.org,” Sheppard said in a e-mail.

In his own words

Harvey Luna is a tall, heavy-set man with chiseled features who is unwavering in his insistence that he is not to blame when singles are unhappy with his service. In an interview with The Examiner, Luna said he has seen it all in the 18 years he’s been in the dating industry.

“When people are recently widowed, they’re recently divorced, they’re recently out of a bad relationship, they come to us a lot of times emotionally damaged,” Luna said. “They’re scorned, they’re jaded, they’re mad, they’re pissed off, they’re upset. They’re very close to giving up hope.”

As it pertains to Wesley Seelke, the mentally challenged man Harvey enrolled in his dating program, Luna claimed he didn’t know Seelke was mentally handicapped.

“When people come in our doors, especially in Beaumont, there are some slow people around here,” he said. “We’re not psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists so we don’t know if they’re slow, or dense or if someone is actually mentally retarded.”

His customer base is hard to please, Luna said, especially when dates don’t go as planned.

“If you Google anybody in the dating service industry ... it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Everyone’s got complaints. And that’s because 50 percent of our members love us and the other 50 percent don’t.”

“That’s just the nature of the beast,” he said.

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