Rancho Santa Fe’s Irene Valenti runs Valenti International, a matchmaking and relationship counseling service that claims it puts together “educated, cultured, successful men and women with a strong desire for a relationship”…that is, she puts rich women and rich men on the road to matrimony or cohabitation.
She would not qualify for her own services because she has had deep financial problems for a number of years.
People who know her financial condition wonder why on July 19 she was, in her words, “the first-ever title sponsor of Opening Day at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.” People also scratch their heads at her heavy advertising schedule.
She went into Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy in 2012. The creditors to whom she owed money received “nominal amounts,” says Richard Kipperman, who was the bankruptcy trustee. She had to cough up valuable assets, such as artworks by Richard MacDonald, a well-known figurative sculptor. “She had a Charles Schwab account that we got some money out of.”
She is burdened with tax liens. She owes the Internal Revenue Service $28,569.88 and the state Franchise Tax Board $67,358.12, according to the latest report. With unpaid assessments going back to 2014, she owes the Rancho Santa Fe Association $48,168.
She has her office in her Rancho Santa Fe home, where she and her staff interview potential clients. The home at 16275 Via De La Valle is 5786 square feet on 16.47 acres. She enhances her income by boarding horses there.
On August 22 of last year, she got a notice of a trustee’s sale. Said the document, “You are in default under a deed of trust dated February 12, 2007. Unless you take action to protect your property, it may be sold at a public sale.”
In fact, an auction is scheduled for September 15. Zillow’s foreclosure estimate is $2.8 million. In the past, she has successfully gotten foreclosure sales delayed — indeed, there had been one scheduled in August. Can she work her magic again?
“I personally have a great relationship with Chase Bank,” she says. “We are working on a modification that works for both of us.”
What got her in trouble? Like many flailing enterprises, the problem lies with her business plan. Representing unhappy Valenti customers, San Diego lawyer Elaine Heine filed about 30 lawsuits against her for fraud. At the time Heine looked at statistics, women signing up outnumbered men ten to one. “The men usually want a woman ten years younger,” Heine says. “The range in age was from late 30s to late 60s. I heard the same story. [These women] were promised an intellectual, wealthy man. Then she gets set up with a guy who drives a taxicab.”
About ten years ago, Valenti was “living the high life” and would settle a lawsuit out of court, says Heine. “But once she realized I would pick up more and more clients, she changed the contract so [a dispute] would have to be settled in arbitration in Nevada,” says Heine. (This is an old ruse. Four years ago, I reported on a fellow in Vista who had unknowingly signed a contract with Wells Fargo that mandated a legal dispute would have to be settled in New York, 2700 miles away.) “It basically got harder to settle cases because her assets were disappearing.” So Heine was turning down clients “because it was too much trouble than it was worth.” Basically, says Heine, Valenti, advertising in airline magazines and the like, was attracting middle- to older-aged women who wanted rich, intelligent men, but such men were in short supply, possibly because they are targeted so often that they don’t need the help of a matchmaker. Women live five years longer than men, creating an imbalance. In retirement communities, women are said to outnumber men by about four to one.
Those who sign up and cough up money register complaints online. Here are some from the Complaint Board of the National Consumer Complaint Forum: “They say you will be easy to introduce, then once they sign you, they can’t find anyone because they don’t have enough clients,” says one, emphasizing, “SCAM — Run, Run, Run.”
Says another, “She pulls on your heart strings and knows exactly how to pick your bank account.”
And another: “I paid an embarrassing sum of money for a three year contract and ended up with 5 extremely weak introductions.”
Says a onetime client, writing in Ripoff Report, “Save your money and get therapy and join a gym. You won’t be out tens of thousands of dollars.”
Not long after Valenti filed for bankruptcy in 2012, Jodi L. Doucette, who had earlier been Valenti’s lawyer, filed an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court. Doucette said that Valenti owed her $80,736.02.
Doucette charged that in the bankruptcy filing, Valenti was “concealing her personal property and commercial assets… [She] continues to enjoy a [lavish] lifestyle due to the income of her various commercial operations. She has a multitude of assets in her personal property in her home, including art, furniture and jewelry.” Doucette charged that Valenti “knowingly and fraudulently made false oaths” related to income and value of her personal property, including the value of her horses.
Valenti’s lawyer, Julian McMillan, argued that Doucette had a conflict of interest. During the period she represented Valenti, Doucette was given “vast amounts of privileged confidential financial information” and the two had discussed Valenti’s possible bankruptcy. Valenti had sought Doucette’s “counsel on methods to minimize her indebtedness.” Doucette had negotiated “settlements of Valenti’s debts with American Express and Chase Bank, including loan modification.”
Doucette’s suit was “dismissed or settled without entry of judgment,” according to the court. Doucette says it would be a violation of legal ethics for her to answer my queries. Valenti wouldn’t discuss the matter.
Valenti claims that the matchmaking business has turned around. “I thank the Lord we are back on track and doing very well,” she insists.