In early 2008, Gerald “Storm” and Johanna “Jinjee” Talifero, pictured, announced that they were selling homes in a “Raw Vegan Village” – a community they were building in the Upper Ojai Valley in Southern California.
The Taliferos are the couple behind the popular Garden Diet website, and the homes for sale were to be no ordinary homes, but state-of-the-art luxury green homes set in a stunning location on nearly 120 acres of fertile land.
Here was a unique opportunity to live in a community of like-minded people, growing food together, and earning a good income from the Village’s green businesses, which would include a world-class raw spa.
As a local newspaper article on the project began, “The dream sounded nothing short of a utopia.”
At least 27 individuals, couples and families followed that dream and made home down payments to the Taliferos (average amount: around $30,000) between mid 2008 and mid 2010. The Taliferos also sold shares in the planned spa.
But the dream very quickly turned into a nightmare.
Seven of those who lost their money share their stories below.
Contracts show that those who bought homes were told that the Village would be completed by summer 2011 latest.
But at the time of writing, building has not even started, and the Taliferos own no land, have no permits for building and no funds for building (it is estimated the Village would take well over $20 million to complete) and it doesn’t look likely any of this will change.
Some who made down payments had already realised something was seriously amiss before 2008 was out and started requesting their money back. In the coming months and years, many more followed suit. The Taliferos had agreed with many if not all who signed up that down payments were refundable.
But at the time of writing no one has yet received their money back. The Taliferos say they spent it all, though they have yet to provide any financial statements showing where it went.
However, they insist that they plan to repay everyone. As Storm Talifero told me, “It is our foremost goal to make these repayments. We are completely committed to this in our every waking hour.”
But some investors have now endured several long years of being led to believe by the Taliferos that the return of their money was, at all times, just around the corner.
Lives have been turned upside down with unimaginable stress and anguish. Some have lost their entire life savings and are left struggling to make ends meet.
Nobody but the Taliferos knows what happened to the “little over $900,000” they admit to collecting.
As one of those who lost money observes below, “Somebody needs to deal with the facts here. They’ve collected an enormous amount of money that has never been accounted for.”
In emails sent by the Taliferos between 2008 and 2010, to parties desperate to get their money back, the Taliferos repeatedly stated they were unable to make repayments as every dollar they had was tied up in the Village.
And they did spend around $400,000 on attempts to get the project off the ground. But in November of last year, Storm Talifero made a shocking admission in an email to one home buyer.
He wrote that of the $900,000+ collected, “We reinvested about five hundred thousand back into the business which is The Garden Diet.”
Not only did no one I spoke to give permission for their home down payment to be used in this way. Around the same time the Taliferos also made available a document which showed that they consider their rent, food and other personal expenses “Garden Diet expenses”.
Late last year, some of those who lost money decided they could no longer stay silent, and as they began sharing their stories with me I realised I couldn’t stay silent either. Seven who made down payments on homes in the Raw Vegan Village share their stories below, followed by a statement from Storm Talifero.
NOTE: The seven people quoted below asked to remain anonymous to protect their privacy. I thank them all for their courage in sharing their stories and I must also thank my friend and colleague Anna Rodgers for her assistance with this report. Anna writes, “As soon as I started reading documents connected with this, I could see that there was something very fishy going on, and the more evidence I saw, the more shocked I was.”
Home buyer A, a single mother from Los Angeles, paid the Taliferos $170,000 towards a home in the Raw Vegan Village.
“Our home was to be built on a creek-side site which I chose in January 2009 when I visited the land. The home was to consist of a 2800 square foot main house, a 1000 square foot guest house, four acres of land, and a pool.
I was promised that building on my home would commence immediately, hence the big down payment ($170,000). My home was to be built first on the land. My husband and father had died and I was left raising my son alone and was looking for a community in which to raise him so I was vulnerable in making this decision and acting on it.
I cannot tell you how saddened this makes me. I feel so naive and so abused in this lie all the way around 360. My son played with theirs and we spent time in their home on several occasions. All while deceiving and stealing from us all and even talking about karma and spirituality…just blows my consciousness to see such blatant audacity.
I was patient and understanding for three years but I cannot tell you my frustration at Storm and Jinjee’s cavalier attitude. It appears they are not bothered by their past actions nor the fact they continue to make promises they’ve been making some of us since 2008 about paying us back. Nothing continues to be done with this situation. They are holding us in limbo and I am truly baffled by their behavior and irresponsibility.
My son is 15 now and I am in my fifties, alone in providing for his education and expenses. I was recently contacted by a member of the group who wants to make a documentary about everyone’s experiences with this. I thought he was kidding. How we were taken and ripped off? Maybe that is what he meant.
The thought of continuing this to other innocent people looking to get off the grid and make a better life for themselves…just sends chills of disgust down my spine. May the consequences flow where they need to be for the lessons to be learned.”
Home buyer B sent the Taliferos a $10,000 deposit on a planned home for himself, his wife and their three young children.
“I made a down payment of $10,000 in early May 2008 and shortly after visited the Taliferos in Ojai. I requested my money back within two weeks of that visit, but to date I have not had a cent of it returned to me.
The Raw Vegan Village sales page had the following to say about our down payments:
Q: What if you run into a snag and can’t complete this village for some reason?
A: If for any reason things don’t work out, we will refund your down-payment.
Q: What would happen if someone paid a down-payment but was unable, for whatever reason, to go through with a purchase?
A: If you decided not to buy, we would refund your deposit.
People have continued to give them the benefit of the doubt and yet…somebody needs to deal with the facts here. They’ve collected an enormous amount of money that has never been accounted for. It seems this “core group” spent far too long buying into their stories while Jinjee and Storm just dug deeper and deeper and deeper.
I wish I’d said something to “someone” sooner, had I only known who that might be (I was one of the people the Taliferos kept out of the communications they sent the rest of the group). So I feel it’s very much in the public’s best interest that the story be told.
And maybe the story is, “How could ANYONE possibly be happy with this experience?!”
I was the first person to actually send them any money. But I was led to believe, by Jinjee, that there might “only” be a spot or two remaining open, and that there was a sense of urgency around making a decision
As a result I sent them $10,000 with the understanding that it would be applied to my down payment if we decided to buy and would be refunded if not. In essence they needed to ensure I was serious if they were going to hold a spot for us.
I visited the land with Storm and later met Jinjee. We spent most of the day together and they took me out to a rather expensive meal (it was about $110 for the three of us, with items to go for them). After the meal we went to meet with the realtor when they were to submit the official offer on the property.
That was a surprise to me and when the paperwork had been filled out the realtor asked for a check to escrow to show the land owner this was a serious offer. Storm wrote a check for $11,500 – that would be $1,500 they had to put up and my $10,000.
I left the meeting feeling I’d been punched in the stomach.
Upon returning home my wife and I discussed the situation and felt the risk was too high and that we’d be looking at two years or more to make a move. This was *before* we knew anything else about how little had actually been done on this project. To be honest I feel quite foolish about it now, but at the time it just seemed like a dream for us and we trusted Jinjee and Storm having been long-time subscribers to their email list – that and hearing so many other people in the raw food community speak highly of them.
So within about 2 weeks I told them we’d decided against going forward. This would have been mid May of 2008. We waited. And we waited. And in August I wrote Jinjee to ask when we’d get our money back. She responded by saying something to the effect of “Oh! We didn’t realize you wanted your money back. We thought it was a gift to the community. I’m so sorry, we’ll get it back to you as soon as we can.”
We were thinking “Really?! You think we just GIFTED YOU $10,000?!” Maybe if they’d written us a note saying “Thanks for the money” we’d have understood there was a misunderstanding, but I really don’t think there was any misunderstanding.
A month passed and nothing. I wrote again. Got another story about how it’d be another two weeks. Six weeks passed, I wrote again. They said they’d be selling the water rights to the property and they’d pay me as soon as that happened.
And then there was another excuse, and another, then the promise I’d be paid back soon with 10% interest on top of what I’d paid them. We had promises of being paid off after producing movies, other projects, selling websites, etc.
And even after all this, things still continued to be published (videos, articles, etc) as if this was all proceeding. The farce grew larger and larger, and included more and more people.
In Sep 2009 I wrote to Jinjee, “In good faith I sent to you $10,000, not wanting to make the trip to California if a spot was not available and with the understanding that my money would be refunded if we decided against joining the community. I was sorely disappointed, after being led to believe spots were filled up and only one place was left, to discover that my $10,000 was pretty much it at that time. Not a good sign, and not particularly honest on your part. I have been patient for this past year with repeated promises that in a month or two months or whatever that our money would be returned to us, as promised – even with interest. None of it was true.”
I also threatened them with legal action around this time. Jinjee’s response was that any legal action was my choice but it would certainly jeopardize any remaining chance the project had of succeeding. Well, that weighed heavy on my conscience as I surely didn’t want others to lose out on all they’d invested. But that’s been a key part of their strategy in dealing with us, I believe.
I think that Storm and Jinjee have somehow created a fear on the part of us that by blowing a whistle we might somehow jeopardize the return of our money.
I long ago accepted that there is not any sincere effort on their part to return the money. I suppose, in ways, they remind me a little too much of some people I’ve known well in my life who freely spend other people’s money and think of it as some gift deserved for their awesomeness.
It’s also clear in Jinjee’s language that this is all someone else’s fault. They have not accepted any responsibility for this result.
I think we’re all decent, peaceable, loving people here – and sometimes people can use that against us. I’d love to believe Jinjee and Storm are good people, too, but I think the reality is closer to wolves among sheep.
I don’t know if this is a story of metaphysical goofiness gone badly awry – I mean perhaps they just kept up this “if we just think positive it will all work out” routine? Or if it’s a matter of people authentically trying to make something happen without realizing how ill-equipped they were and not being willing to get in touch with reality, or if it’s a situation of outright fraud and theft.
Anyways, I count myself fortunate it wasn’t $40,000 and my life savings.”
Home buyer C did not wish to disclose any identifying details.
“Based on my personal experience with the Taliferos I have found them to be entirely without honor or integrity, and I believe they should be serving time in prison for their actions.
Instead, they insist they had every right to use our money for any purpose they chose and have never even apologized for losing a million dollars of other people’s money. In their minds they are always the victims.
My inquiry into the laws of the State of California has revealed it is highly illegal to advertise homes for sale and declare completion dates for a subdivision of homes and a village when you own no land and need $20 million to get started and you don’t have it (that’s the amount Storm Talifero told the Ventura County Star he needed to build the village, NOT including land payments).
There appears to be no legal or reasonable explanation for why 27 people were sold homes to be built on the land they claimed they owned, but did not.
They advertised the Raw Vegan Village as a “community”, which in everyone else’s minds meant the individuals would be part of any and all decision making, especially where finances were concerned. Never did any of us agree to just turn our money over to them for them to use as they pleased. Yet they have provided no factual documentation showing what they did with our money, other than to say they spent it and it is now gone.
They stole my money, committed other serious acts of deception and blatantly lied about many details of this project…of that there is no dispute. They never had the ability to fulfill the terms of the contracts they signed with investors in the project.
These truths need to be told now to the 500 people the Taliferos claim are on the waiting list to get into the “Raw Vegan Village”, if and when they move forward with it, and to the thousands of health seekers searching the internet for a better way of life for their families. Based on the fact that they continue to tell the public they are raising funds to build, it is essential this warning go out to spare others unnecessary losses.
I have also since met several people who say that they were defrauded large sums of money in the years prior to my decision to purchase a home from the Taliferos. If any one of them had made a public statement disclosing the details of their experience with the Taliferos, I would have been spared, along with many others, the same incredible financial loss and emotional and spiritual agony.
I’ve had many conversations with others who fear speaking out against the Taliferos. It seems they have effectively “bullied” people into silence insisting they will just file bankruptcy and not pay anyone back.
I want this story to be available to anyone who considers giving them any amount of money. Then, if they still choose to do business with the Taliferos at least I will not be responsible for remaining silent. As much as I want my money returned, I do not want it to come from another innocent person or family losing their life savings on this scam.”
Home buyer D is a health educator from California.
“I invested $24,000 in 2008. I’m 68 years old and intended to retire there. Every time they had a “setback” I actually believed they were diligently working to honor their promises. After the 3rd or 4th “setback,” I began to feel that Jinjee and Storm are professional scammers.
What’s that saying? “First time you screw me, shame on you, second time, shame on me.” Well, third time I just say “mercy.” Someone stop these two. They are too good at convincing people to invest and instead of repaying them they take the money and invest it in other things and then try and convince everyone that it was the wise thing to do, even though they had promised to repay.
I’m more disappointed than angry. These people have acted in a very dishonorable way and have taken advantage of others who trusted them. So far as I can tell from their latest correspondence they are still acting/planning in the same unethical manner.”
Home buyer E is a pilot from England. In May 2008, he and his (then) wife sent a $45,000 down payment on a promised 2,250 square foot home in the Raw Vegan Village.
“My wife and I entered into this project excited about what community living would mean for us. Four years later on, this excitement has long since disappeared, to be replaced with a very different set of emotions.
I very much identify with the emotional and spiritual agony of which others caught up in this have spoken, and I believe it is essential that we do something to attempt to get what we can back, and also to warn others about this destructive couple.
A major reason for my decision to participate in this article is this: shortly after our investment in this project, I mentioned it to a well known raw foodist who happens to be known to me. His response was deeply shocking. He said, “You have been sold a dream, nothing more. You will never see a house, nor will you ever see your money again.”
This left me feeling shocked to the core, but of course, I did not want to accept it. Later on, I learned that his horribly accurate prediction was based on his own experience of doing business with Storm and Jinjee. How I wish he had made his experience public; had he done so, we and others might never have been defrauded out of our money.
The stresses of this have already hurt me a great deal. The anger created by the Taliferos’ actions created a lot of stress in the lives of my wife and I, and have in my view made a very significant contribution to my marriage breaking up.
In May 2008, in what was a substantial leap of faith for us (neither of us are natural risk takers), my wife and I instructed our bank to send $45,000 to the Taliferos’ account as a 10% down payment on a 2,250 square foot home in the Raw Vegan Village.
By early July, due to a change in our financial circumstances, we notified the Taliferos of our need to downsize to a smaller home, so as to qualify for having $20,000 of our down payment returned. We also at this time informed them of the reasons we were dealing with financial challenges: I used to be a corporate jet pilot but after a contaminated cabin air incident some years ago, my health deteriorated to the point I could no longer work. Although food has helped me to regain my health, I will never be able to return to that line of work, and this continues to have a major effect on my finances.
On 11 July 2008 Storm wrote back to say they would return it, but could not at that time, adding: “It is our plan to start a few internet projects that will give us an immediate cash flow.”
On 23 July 2008 Jinjee wrote to us, “Regarding getting the $20,000 back to you, we will be happy to do that as soon as possible!”
On July 31 she wrote, “We are doing all we can and should have the money very soon!”
On August 28, “We are still working on the whole funding thing, and are getting close!”
And on it went…
In early November 2008 we wrote to tell them, “The delay in returning these funds fails to acknowledge a fundamental truth – this money belongs to us, and it is not yours to decide to hold on to. This is all the more disappointing because we made it clear on several occasions that this really is an urgent matter for us. The stress of this has now got to the point where it is affecting our health. The unreasonable delay and other concerns have now caused us to run out of enthusiasm for the project and we no longer wish be a part of it. Accordingly, we are hereby informing you that we wish to have all of our down payment returned to us.”
Both wrote to apologise to us at this point and Jinjee assured us, “We will do our best to get you back your $45,000 this coming week.”
We replied after that week had elapsed to say, “We are sure you both agree that it is crucial that business is always done with integrity. Surely it has already gone well past the point when you must accept that the right thing is to just return our money. Please note that for as long as you choose to continue to retain our money, our rights continue to be violated and we continue to suffer.”
But they did not return our money, and still have not to this day.
In their marketing of the Raw Vegan Village, the Taliferos presented themselves to us as a married couple with five children. We (and others) had no idea until much later that their family also included Storm’s girlfriend Julie Pitcher, and their two children.
From a business perspective, as well as a personal one, this information was extremely relevant as they were offering community living. We would never have knowingly chosen to join such a community. People’s personal domestic arrangements are their own business, but in this case it should most definitely have been divulged to prospective village residents.
The lack of transparency about this issue is yet another example of the way the Taliferos operate; in this respect, as well as others, the project has been dishonestly represented.
We have to ask why they were not open about this to prospective village members, and the answer is surely that they knew that it would put people off joining them and entrusting them with their money. I wonder what else they have withheld that we have yet to find out.
It was in early February 2009 that we first requested financial statements showing what they’d done with our money. Jinjee replied to say, “Storm will be scanning in some financials for you shortly.” Well over three years later we’re still waiting. This is despite numerous requests from myself and from others who made down payments.
In early March 2009 we wrote to them, “Many would call spending money that belongs to someone else simple theft. Every time we push for the return of our money, you reply with some reason or other why it’s not possible straight away, and mention a future possibility. These platitudes have been a theme for many months now, and are now starting to sound very hollow.”
We later learned that they never owned the land on which the Village was to be built. But they did spend nearly $400,000 of homebuyers’ money on payments to a landowner they intended to purchase from, before defaulting and losing all of that money.
And after telling us again and again that our money was all tied up in the land and the village project, to the point that they had literally nothing left over for making repayments, Storm Talifero recently admitted, in an email to me, that of the over $900,000 they collected, “We reinvested about five hundred thousand back into the business which is The Garden Diet.”
In other words, they used my money for their own purposes. At no time did I give my consent for them to spend my money in this way. Today, I feel like my life savings have been stolen from me by Storm and Jinjee.
I have only recently begun communicating with others caught up in this. I now regret not taking action sooner but I personally just was not strong enough to deal with this before. I now know from experience that there is considerable embarrassment at having been a victim of something like this, and this probably accounts for the reluctance of some who have lost money to become involved in efforts to recover it.
I don’t hold out a lot of hope for getting our money back, but I’m not about to give up either.”
Home buyer E is the only party featured in this report to have had a portion of his down payment returned. To date, he has had $1,500 of the $45,000 returned to him.
Home buyer F, from England, made a large home down payment and also invested in the spa.
“I sent the Taliferos a home down-payment of $40,000 in early 2010 and in addition I paid $5,000 to be part of the spa investment group a year earlier. My life had been very hard as my husband had been battling a serious illness for 10 years. When he died I was left with inheritance money from his family. What better way to spend it than to be part of a community like this? I had dreamed of living in an environmentally aware community with like-minded people for a very long time.
When I started reading Jinjee’s emails about the Raw Vegan Village project I didn’t have the money to buy in, and it also wasn’t the right time for me – I had too many family crises to take care of and my sons still had not left home. I also didn’t want to be involved in all the practicalities of getting it off the ground.
So I waited and waited and when I finally expressed interest, Jinjee approached me offering me “the last plot” after someone had dropped out due to the recession. The second time she offered this I was finally in a position to accept.
But I learned on a recent conference call with others in my situation that many people were offered “the last plot ” – in fact it seems it may have been offered 27 times. Jinjee promised me many things about the status of the project that I later learned were false. For example, I was led to believe that Jinjee and Storm owned the land – they showed me around it and said I could pick the exact spot where I would like my house to be built.
Jinjee and Storm were both driving big SUVs on this occasion. I have to admit I was taken aback, but then my mind started coming up with excuses like, well, they have so many children and they live in the mountains, etc, etc.
I asked for my money back in July 2010 after I heard from a group member who emailed me out the blue that there was no planning permission for the land and never had been and sent me a copy of the detailed results of her investigations.
Jinjee and Storm have not replied to any of my emails requesting my money back. I have been feeling completely isolated in this whole sorry business and I still have absolutely no idea what is going on.”
Home buyer G did not wish to disclose any identifying details.
“I have always had the fear that to speak up would negatively affect the chances of seeing my money returned, I still have that fear and ask that you do not share my name or any personal details that could be lead back to myself.
I first invested in the Raw Vegan Village after receiving Jinjee’s daily e-mail which made me feel I’d be stupid not to, it sounded like such a great opportunity. I had to take a second mortgage out on my home to afford that. I invested immediately to secure our spot before talking to family who thought we were crazy and it could be a scam.
I said that Storm and Jinjee were two of the most famous raw foodists and it would hurt them too much to scam us, if it ever went public. We put our money and our faith in them. We were told that there would be a raw spa on the land and the income we’d earn from that would be enough to pay our house payments.
I was shocked to later discover that Storm had taken on a second wife-like partner Julie who was in her early twenties. Her and Jinjee both had a baby by Storm that were relatively the same age. I found this disturbing and didn’t want to be a part of that. Also, I soon realized that they were all dreams with little to no resources to make this happen. I also had concerns about earning an income if the spa didn’t pan out.
I was told that if I wanted out I could have my money back immediately as they could resell my spot no problem.
Anyway, when I asked to no longer be a part of it I was reassured my money would be returned to me within a week or two. That led to next month, next month, next month, with big dreams of how they’d raise the money and nothing ever being realized. They still owe me thousands of dollars. The group receives an e-mail every few months now with an update of their plans to raise money, always big dreams that are doubtful to ever be realized.
Now they almost seem to be threatening us – if an article is published we will receive at most $149/month…this would be better than the nothing we’ve been receiving for the last 3 years. I found out about a year after withdrawing that my spot had been resold but rather than give me my investment back they used that money towards land payments (supposedly), to benefit the group as a whole rather than us as individuals (they said).
We are completely unhappy with the project. The loss of the money has us in a rather desperate situation. I still owe thousands of dollars, am struggling to make ends meet, and the return of the money would bring me out of the hole and bring much happiness and relief.”
*End of statements*
The Taliferos accuse me of having an “agenda” in publishing this information – as did, they say, the Ventura County Star reporter who wrote an August 2010 article raising some of the concerns outlined above.
In an email to me while I was working on this report, Storm Talifero referred to it as “your petty little nit-picking article”, and added, “If you feel that you are writing an unbiased article asking a lot of people how they feel about losing their money in a failed real estate deal then go for it.”
However, he and Jinjee Talifero did take the time to communicate with me at length about what happened. Go here to read an email Storm Talifero copied to me, in which he outlines their side of the story.
While the Taliferos admit they made some mistakes in the way they handled things, they say they did the best they could in the circumstances.
In summary, they say that various factors and parties contributed to the collapse of the project, including the global recession and the Ventura County Star article (link below), both of which, they say, caused sources of funding to dry up.
They stopped soliciting or accepting new Raw Vegan Village investors around the time the article was published, but state that once they have raised the necessary funds they will proceed with the project.
As mentioned earlier, the Taliferos say they’re committed to repaying everyone. However, they maintain that they acted in the interests of the group when, instead of making large repayments when they still had the funds to do so, they “diversified the investment” by channelling – according to Storm Talifero himself – $500,000 of the $900,000 collected into their Garden Diet business.
During the two-year period when they were collecting down payments, from mid 2008 to mid 2010, this $500,000 equates to an average cash injection of nearly $21,000 a month into their business. What did they spend the money on?
Only they know. Last November, Jinjee Talifero sent a back-of-the-envelope summary of average Garden Diet monthly expenditure for 2010 to several investors.
On the itemised list, “food”, “rent”, “gas”, “car payment” and other apparently personal expenses account for over half of the stated monthly total. And even with the inclusion of all of these expenses, the total falls far short of explaining what they did with all of the money they say they channelled into the business.
But it’s as close as the Taliferos have yet got to explaining how the $500,000 was spent, and commenting on this document, Jinjee Talifero wrote to me:
“Understand that we have a family of 10. Multiply your own expenses by 10 to help you to understand how that might add up. In addition look at the size of the business. A larger business takes more money to run. It takes money to make money. A lot of our income goes back to our affiliates, and in 2010 we had three staff members.”
A few days later, and on the topic of these same expenses, she wrote, “I know you say these expenses were not the responsibility of the group, but we were working for the group, to generate the funds to buy their land and build their homes. I think many in the group would understand that we felt we were doing the right thing to invest these funds in the way we did.”
In August of last year, a woman from Colorado who made a $20,000 home down payment sued the Taliferos for fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment, among other things. That person is not featured in this report.
What about the 19 others the Taliferos say made down payments? I have been unable to contact everyone as only the Taliferos know the identity of all who invested. (They are also the only ones who know for sure how many home buyers there were and the total amount collected in down payments, and how many spa investors there were and the total amount collected in spa share sales.)
A list of email addresses provided to me by home buyers featured in this report contained only home buyers, not spa investors – and some understandably did not wish to speak.
However, in addition to the seven people who shared their stories here, four others told me of their unhappiness – two in some detail – but declined to be featured in this report.
Not everyone involved shares the opinions expressed here, though. Two who bought into the Raw Vegan Village wrote to tell me that they still support the Taliferos, but they did not wish to make their statements public, either.
And Jinjee Talifero forwarded to me the following email from a third supporter, sent in September last year:
“Greetings Storm and Jinjee, ____ and I are sorry for this rift in your lives and ours as a group. I hope no one sues since you guys were as open as possible, whatever miscommunications people felt were common and a part of a group’s growth and learning. We support what you try to do for the best of the group. We understand people being in need and situations, we have them also. If someone does sue it is not in their best interest or ours. Hurting one member hurts us all including the one reacting to their own struggle.
We wanted you both to know that is how ____ and I feel. We understand these things take time, and not to loose faith or vision. ____still talks and feels very strongly about the community. I just know from experience these type rifts are common and it takes a long time to find a supportive steel minded group that does not turn on one another in doubt and change. ____ is a hard core loyalist. I am … I do not know the word. I felt your heart and all things in perfection.”
On the topic of their continued failure to provide financial statements – first promised well over three years ago – Storm Talifero wrote the following in November 2011:
“It is going to take us a while to round up all of the financials because we are no longer working with the main book keeper; there were two. So we have three years of papers in boxes that we have to sort through plus the main bank that we started working with folded and we are not quite sure how to go about getting those bank records. The former land owner is suing us and I don’t think he’s going to be friendly about furnishing us with records of our payments.”
At the time of writing, no one has received their money back. Most of those I spoke to have yet to have a single dollar returned to them, and to my knowledge the largest repayment anyone has received is 3% of the amount owed.
The fact that this remains the sum total of repayments from the Taliferos despite numerous “full repayment with interest” promises, spanning back nearly four years, raises the strong possibility that those who trusted them may never get their money back.
In communicating with those who put their faith in the Taliferos, I have been struck time and again by what thoughtful, caring and honest people they are, and what a remarkable community they could have forged together.
My heart goes out to all caught up in this and I sincerely hope that this situation will soon, finally, be resolved to the greatest good of all involved.
I would love be able to report some good news about this soon – and as and when any large repayments are made, I will update this report to that effect.
In the meantime, please show your support for those who shared their stories here by leaving a comment below. Let’s show them that we are all right behind them.
The Ventura County Star article “Vegans’ Dream Hits Gritty Reality“.
In late August 2011, a woman from California who made a $20,000 Raw Vegan Village home down payment sued the Taliferos for fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. A copy of the complaint is here.
Around the same time the owner of the land on which Taliferos planned to build the Village sued them, and Julie Pitcher, for unpaid taxes. A copy of the complaint is here.
The outcome of these legal complaints is (briefly) outlined at Thomas Billings’s excellent BeyondVeg.com website, in his article “Investigating raw vegan and other diet gurus: can you trust them?” The Raw Vegan Village is the first item covered in that report.