It sickens me to see a con-artist take advantage of trusting individuals. Yet, I was prevented from sounding a broad alarm. In this case it involved a rogue “publisher” who left a bad taste in the mouths of various authors and a trail of deception in his wake.
Back in January I received an invitation to work on a short story compilation with a fellow writer. As usual, I researched the publisher’s background and ran across some major red flags. The official website had none of the books I expected, and this other alleged publisher’s name was overtly missing.
I continued digging. On a writers forum, several authors stated that this publisher was using a pseudonym. In addition they charged him with using stolen graphics for their covers. This made huge waves that reached all the way to Hollywood. (For some reason, using graphics taken off a poster from a blockbuster movie made quite a stink). The moniker for this alleged publisher? The Ice Cream Man taken from his apparent false name: Giovanni Gelati — Joe Ice Cream.
I smelled a con-job. I’ve done investigative journalism in my younger years, so, I decided to do a bit more digging before warning the writing community at large. I wrote the publisher in question at the email address my fellow writer had given me.
“I have been trying to research your publishing company Helping Hand Press, however, the only company website I was able to locate is a Christian publisher Helping Hands Press, established in the 1980s, that specializes in black authors. So, I’d like more information about your company. When was Helping Hand Press established and what is its mission statement?
What is your vision for the —— series? Who is the editor who will be working with the authors on the series? Is this an in-house editor, or a contracted editor? How will the series be marketed? What is the deadline for the project? How are the authors being selected? What percentage of royalties can the authors expect?”
Publishers who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. They don’t have a problem answering questions from potential authors. This guy? He started out with “Gee you don’t hold back do you?” then posted two links to his website and gave no legitimate answers.
By-the-way, at the end of his email he had posted this pseudo-legal notice:
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTE: The information transmitted, including attachments, is intended only for the person(s) or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and destroy any copies of this information.
This is rather laughable in light of what else I discovered.
The Helping Hands Press website he sent me to looked dodgy at best. I contacted the legitimate Helping Hands Press and spoke to the CEO. No, they’d never heard of Giovanni Gelati, and no, he wasn’t associated with them at all. In fact, she was shocked that he was using their registered publishing name.
So, Trestle Press Publishing had ripped off another publishers name? Yet another strike against Giovanni Gelati’s integrity in my book. Still, I needed to know more. I conducted an internet search for Giovanni Gelati and Helping Hands Press. Yep, he was still operating through Trestle Press Publishing, though now he had put a “Christian” facade on his dealings. But was Giovanni Gelati his real name?
Using a reputable service I searched some more. Nothing. Giovanni Gelati did not exist, so it seemed. So, I tried again using the name that one of the burned authors had posted on the forum as one of Giovanni’s aliases. Bingo! Michael Brachelli’s record revealed that one of his mailing addresses matched that of Trestle Press Publishing. Now, I needed some more information on how this guy operated.
It didn’t take me long to directly contact a few of the authors who had been burned by the Trestle Press Publishing debacle. One former client contacted me with some devastating information: Giovanni Gelati had ignored legal papers demanding that he return the rights of an author’s manuscript. I waited for a copy of the court documents.
On January 31, 2013, I made a few phone calls to see if Trestle Press Publishing or Helping Hands Press were even registered in “Gelati’s” home state of Pennsylvania. The woman at the state government office told me that there were no businesses registered by those names. The woman said that the business MUST be registered in the state of Pennsylvania in order for him to legally do business. In addition, someone tried to register Trestle Press Publishing in October 2012, but that application was rejected, and the person did not try again. The name of that person? Michael Brachelli.
Hmmm, so, during the major graphics scandal back in 2011, Trestle Press Publishing wasn’t even doing business legally in Pennsylvania. Interesting…
I contacted an agent who had signed some clients with this guy and passed on the info I had found. The response: The information I discovered was not true. Michael Brachelli was Giovanni Gelati’s business partner, and the problem regarding the covers was just ignorance on Giovanni Gelati’s part. All of that had been taken care of long ago.
My email notification went off. There in all its 29 pages was the legal complaint against Michael Brachelli a/k/a Giovanni Gelati d/b/a Trestle Press in Pennsylvania. Yikes! These were really serious charges. I got permission to share the complaint with the agent and a few other key people who needed to know what was going on.
Then we waited….
I watched the Ice Cream Man’s “Christian” publishing venture take off. Michael Brachelli finally registered Trestle Press Publishing with the state of Pennsylvania in February 2013. He signed several clients and got coverage on various web media sites promoting the publishing industry. It was as if nothing had happened.
I could only give vague warnings, not wanting to jeopardize the ongoing legal process. He’d have his day in court and be able to answer the charges himself.
This morning I received a copy of the final judgment against Michael Brachelli and Trestle Press Publishing. According to my source, Michael Brachelli a/k/a Giovani Gelati d/b/a Trestle Press never responded to the law suit. Yep, folks, he DEFAULTED, refusing to acknowledge the lawsuit on any level.
That raises even more questions regarding Trestle Press Publishing. If Michael Brachelli has no regard for the United States legal system, what makes anyone think he’s going to honor any other contracts he makes with authors and agents?
So, as a service to the writing community at large, I am publishing the public court documents for all to see. Here are both the final judgment and the complete legal complaint. Draw your own conclusions.