Steve Anderson of Hermiston wasn’t expecting to sell his collection of old coins for a fortune, just fill his pockets with some ready cash.

He sold the collection to THR &?Associates, a traveling roadshow of a precious metals buyer that set up shop July 10 and 11 in a conference room at the Pendleton Red Lion Inn, 304. S.E. Nye Ave. Anderson deposited the check for $228.35 immediately into his bank account.

Days later the bank returned it, along with a notice of insufficient funds.

“It was eye-opening, I’m kicking myself in the butt for not checking on them beforehand,” Anderson said. “They are doing this all over the country.”

THR &?Associates, also known as Treasure Hunters Roadshow, is mired in fines and lawsuits.

The Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against the company Tuesday seeking nearly $3.8 million, according to the Sangamon County, Ill., recorder’s officer. The IRS had already filed a lien in February for nearly $3.2 million against company CEO?Jeffrey Parsons.

 THR employees also are suing the company and Parsons in federal court, alleging failure to pay overtime and other compensation. And Masco Packaging Industries, Springfield, Ill., filed suit June 12 against Parsons and his company for $44,296.43, according to the Sangamon Count Circuit Court.

Chicago-based Kinzie Street Studios, a video production company, filed a copyright infringement suit June 28 against Parsons and THR, according to federal court records. WGBH Educational Foundation in 2010 sued Parsons and his company for trademark infringement. The parties settled May 3.

The East Oregonian left messages with THR & Associates seeking comment; no one returned a call by deadline.

The Better Business Bureau reports 193 complaints about the THR & Associates in the last 12 months, and a statement from the bureau said it “received disputes from across the country, which claim that after consumers sold their items to THR, the company’s checks stopped clearing the bank.”

 The company responded by claiming that replacement checks have been issued, according to the Better Business Bureau. As of Friday, the company had ceased responding to these complaints, the bureau stated. The bureau also stated THR reported more than 4,000 checks could be bad.

Four people complained to Pendleton police that their checks for goods sold to THR — for $22, $59.08., $228.35 and $475 — bounced.

Jody Robinson, 48, of Pendleton, said THR’s $475 check for gold jewelry she sold them failed to clear the bank. THR wrote the check on a JP Morgan Chase account, she said, and a call to the bank revealed the account was active, but the representative she spoke to suggested she not try to cash it again.

Anderson and Robinson each said THR’s three-page ad in the East Oregonian bolstered their confidence about the company being on the up-and-up. Anderson said the city business license and location in a Red Lion conference room were further stamps of approval. Robinson remarked the THR employee who evaluated her gold was pleasant and professional.

“It seemed like it was pretty legit stuff,” Robinson said.

“Nobody thought to check theses guys out,” Anderson said. “To me, somebody should be watching these guys and call ahead.”

Robinson said she has left messages with multiple departments at the company, and no one has called her back.

Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said THR’s record is not good, but his department doesn’t typically review business licenses applications unless he catches word about something fishy. Otherwise, the city simply takes the money and issues the license. And sometimes Pendleton ends up with problem businesses such as this one, he said.

Getting money on a bad check can take a while. Complainants should send a demand letter to the company to make good on the check and any fees associated with it. Anderson and Robinson said they will do that, but weren’t holding out much hope for a positive result.

“I’m lost, I just don’t know what else to do,” Robinson said.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to see the money,” Anderson said. “It’s extremely frustrating.”

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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