Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
Armando MONTELONGO, Jr., Real Estate Training International, LLC, Performance Advantage Group, Inc., and License Branding, LLC, Appellants
Cecil G. ABREA, et al., Appellees
the 408th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2018-CI-13094 Honorable Karen H. Pozza, Judge
Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Beth Watkins, Justice,
Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice
Armando Montelongo, Jr., Real Estate Training International,
LLC ("RETI"), Performance Advantage Group, Inc.
("PAG"), and License Branding, LLC (collectively,
"Appellants") appeal the trial court's order
denying a motion to dismiss they filed pursuant to the Texas
Citizens Participation Act ("TCPA").
Appellants' motion sought to dismiss "certain
portions of" fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and
fraudulent concealment claims asserted by appellees Cecil G.
Abrea, et al. (collectively, "Appellees"). We
affirm the trial court's order.
is a real estate investor and the president and CEO of RETI
and PAG. Both entities produce, sell, and conduct seminars on
principles and methods of real estate investing. Montelongo
is also the president of License Branding, LLC, a holding
company for the trademarks and copyrights RETI and PAG use.
are 423 individuals from across the United States who claim
to have suffered financial and emotional harm after
purchasing one or more of Appellants' seminars or
products. According to Appellees, even though Appellants
refer to their seminar attendees as "students," the
seminars "are not genuine educational offerings."
Appellees contend that the seminars are a series of coercive
"upsells" whose only purpose is to convince
attendees to purchase additional seminars, products, and
services from Appellants and people allied with Appellants.
the topics addressed at Appellants' seminars was the
generation of cash flow through rental income. To that end,
third-party affiliates of RETI set up booths at RETI seminars
where they offered "'turn-key,' cash-flow
properties" for purchase by attendees. Appellants'
seminars also included presentations by Kurt Weinrich, who
was associated with two individual retirement account
("IRA") custodian companies. Montelongo would
introduce Weinrich onstage during seminars and tell attendees
that "Weinrich's line of work included self-directed
IRAs." Weinrich did not conduct sales transactions
during his seminar presentations, but he informed attendees
that he and his associated companies had a booth outside the
main seminar room. Appellants maintain that they did not
instruct or advise students to purchase products from
Weinrich or his associated companies, that they did not have
any "ownership, management, or controlling
interest" in Weinrich's companies, and that they did
not make any money from Weinrich's sales at their events.
filed the lawsuit that is the basis for this appeal on July
17, 2018. In their original petition, they asserted
theories of liability based on the Deceptive Trade Practices
Act ("DTPA"), negligence, and negligent
misrepresentation. As factual support for these claims,
Appellees alleged that Appellants would, inter alia:
• "encourage [students] to pursue their real
estate investments using [Montelongo's] allies, who also
victimize the students";
• "engage in self-dealing transactions with the
students (whose trust Montelongo cultivates), and expose the
students, including [Appellees], to predation at the hands of
[Appellants'] allies," including Weinrich and the
turn-key property affiliates;
• "sell their products using coercion and
• "engage in outright lies to sell their products,
for example, creating fake personal success stories";
• "encourage students to transfer money in their
employer-controlled or other secure retirement accounts to
self-directed IRAs held by companies ...