INSIDE EDITION Investigates Sports Contests Scam
All over the country, one can find contests in which a hole-in-one or a half court basket means a big money prize. However, our investigative unit has found that, sometimes, the lucky person who wins the prize finds they're a big loser when it co
Hole-in-one contests and half-court basketball competitions are some of the greatest moments in sports!
They allow regular people to try their luck at making shots of a lifetime and scoring giant payouts. But, INSIDE EDITION’s I-squad found sometimes those payments never come.
Matt Ramsey is a regular guy that managed to sink an incredible 67-foot golf putt and win a $10,000 prize at a charity tournament, sponsored by par for life.
Ramsay and his friends went wild after he clinched the putt, because it’s a shot most golf pros couldn’t make.
"That’s me yelling and then running around like a little girl," Ramsay said to INSIDE EDITION’s Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero, while the two watched the video of the near impossible putt.
"You just won $10,000!" Guerrero said. "Was that one of the most unforgettable moments of your life?"
"Oh absolutely, it doesn’t get much better than that," Ramsay said.
Ramsay planned on using the prize money to start a college fund for his little son, Ryder. But, a year and a half later he says he has yet to see a dime.
"That must have been very disappointing when you weren't given that $10,000,"Guerrero asked Ramsay. "You go from jubilation to disappointment, then to anger," he said.
The same thing happened to Andy Knapp. He won a whopping $25,000 after making a hole-in-one during a charity golf event for the First Tee of North Puget Sound in Seattle.
"I threw my hands up in the air and just started screaming! I just went crazy!” Knapp told INSIDE EDITION. But, Andy too was never paid.
"My wife is a teacher. I work for a non-profit. $25,000 would be a significant amount of money," he said.
Both Ramsay and Knapp said they were scammed by Kevin Kolenda, the man that founded the insurance company that promised to payout the prize money in the unlikely event that someone actually made a winning shot.
"The last time I talked to him, he gave me a firm date of when a check would be delivered by, and that date came and went and we had no check," Knapp said.
They’re not alone. INSIDE EDITION uncovered people all across the country that were allegedly ripped off by Kolenda.
And, it’s not just the contest winners that lose out. The charities that hold the contests, including Par For Life and the First Tee of North Puget Sound, are also victims.
Contest winners and event sponsors say they are owed more than a million dollars.
In 2008, a Maryland man won $25,000 by making a hole-in-one on a golf simulator during a golf expo. Kolenda insured the event, but never paid the winner.
And, it’s not just golfers that Kolenda has allegedly cheated. He insured the “Kick for Cash” event during the half-time show at the 1999 Rose Bowl game. A 22-year-old guy kicked a 35-yard field goal and won $100,000 in front of 55,000 cheering fans. But, Kolenda never paid the young man. The University of California ended up having to fork over $100,000 to the winner.
INSIDE EDITION has uncovered similar allegations made against Kolenda and his business in 18 different states.
In Connecticut, he was convicted of larceny, and also owes the state $5.9 million in civil fines for illegally operating an insurance company. But, Kolenda still hasn’t paid a penny.
Washington state insurance commissioner, Mike Kriedler, is fed up. He has been trying to shut down Kolenda for nearly a decade.
"He’s robbing these people! He’s deceptive, he’s dishonest, he’s a scumbag,” said Kriedler.
Kolenda is currently facing criminal charges in Washington state and Montana. He has pled not guilty.
"This is a really bad guy," Kriedler said.
INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero caught up with Kevin Kolenda outside his luxury, penthouse apartment in Connecticut.
"I'd like to ask you about the money you owe contest winners," Guerrero asked Kolenda.
"That is totally false," he replied, and denied owing anyone anything.
"You owe people a lot of money," Guerrero told him.
"It's the exact opposite. Those claimants fraudulently made false claims," Kolenda told Guerrero.
He says everyone else broke the rules of the contests, not him.
"Why won't you pay out these people that won these contests?" Guerrero asked.
"Because there are rules to the contest," Kolenda said.
But, he was apparently more interested in getting away than answering INSIDE EDITION’s questions.
As for the contest winners, their screams of jubilation have turned into cries for justice.
"He seems to have no conscience, because it keeps happening," Knapp said. "He just moves from one to the next, without any kind of punishment, payment or remorse."
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