- Officials Give Warnings About Yakima Native's 'Invention'
- Dennis Lee could be seen as the prodigal son making his
hometown return with promises of free electricity to everyone.
- But consumer-protection agencies throughout the state
say beware. They see Lee as a trickster and an ex-felon who will spin a
web of lies upon a Capitol Theatre audience Saturday night in search of
money for a bogus invention.
- The free show, which begins at 7 p.m., is called a "Y2K
Expo" and is being put on by Lee's International Tesla Electric Co.
The seminar will tout a free energy machine called a counter-rotational
device that allegedly doubles the amount of power that goes into it. In
past shows on his national tour, Lee hasn't demonstrated the machine or
actually sold one. The 53-year-old Yakima native says if he loosens his
grip on the machine, people will use its technology to stop him.
- The heart of Lee's show, say his critics, is conspiracy
and preying on the fears of Y2K. The three-hour performance, according
to news reports, will try to appeal to audiences along religious and patriotic
lines, inspiring allegiance through fear of government and big business
and by ridiculing scientific and educated thought.
- Lee claims his critics are part of the conspiracy. He
says his views have placed him in jail and have led the CIA to investigate
him. He also claims there have been three attempts on his life.
- Finally, he'll ask for money. Lee says people can receive
a "free energy machine" with a one-time contribution of $275
to his company. The money will pay for development and construction, and
people may "possibly get a free electricity machine."
- He'll sell a $50 kit containing videos and a book he
wrote that explains his free electricity idea. Lee also will accept thousands
of dollars from people who want to buy dealerships.
- Through the Internet, Lee's companies, ITEC, Better World
Technologies and United Community Service of America, also hawk detergentless
laundry balls, noiseless jackhammers and a special sound system and spray
that when combined will make plants and vegetables grow to astounding heights
and produce enormous harvests. His companies' Web sites are www.ucsofa.com
- Lee could not be reached for comment despite numerous
attempts through his New Jersey office. On Wednesday, he put on a show
in Billings, Mont., and he'll put one on in Idaho tonight.
- Under Investigation
- Lee claims to be an inventor, and in 1996 he was honored
by the Atlanta-based International Inventor's Hall of Fame for theories,
but not for actual inventions. The U.S. Patent Office has no record of
any patent owned by Lee.
- For the Yakima show, several agencies are warning consumers
to understand the facts before spending any money. Yakima's police department,
the Better Business Bureau and the state Attorney General's Office are
interested in the veracity of Lee's claims.
- "We want to make sure that there's no deception
being used in whatever he's offering," said Janice Marich, spokeswoman
with the Attorney General's Office. "We will be in the audience."
- It isn't the first time the state's AG office has investigated
- In the mid-1980s, the state sued Lee and his company
for illegally marketing a solar-powered refrigeration system called "The
Alternative." The suit claims Lee and his company, C.O.N.S.E.R.V.E.
Corp., sold 300 of the units but never installed one. Marich said Lee never
paid the $7,000 in costs and fees from the court's judgment.
- After the Washington suit, Lee apparently moved his company
to California, where he sold $5 million worth of kits for a heat pump that
cost $2,000-$5,000 apiece. However, his illegal sales practices and mismanagement
landed him in prison.
- He pleaded guilty to seven felonies, including grand
theft, and was sentenced to 40 months in prison. He served two years.
- According to Bob Meyers, supervising attorney with the
major fraud unit in the Ventura County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office,
Lee claimed the heat pump would provide free air conditioning, heating
and electricity with no operating costs.
- On his Web site, though, Lee claims he was imprisoned
for a civil-code registration violation and that he has never had a trial
or been convicted of the offense.
- Meyers said that's false. So does the Ventura County
Star newspaper, which ran articles about his 1988 trial.
- Meyers said he was astounded that Lee plans to return
to California, where his show will tour after appearances in Washington
- "It's just amazing that he can keep doing the same
thing over and over again," he said.
- Something for Nothing?
- Lee's current show is centered on the counter-rotational
machine, which is supposed to provide double the energy that goes into
- Here's how it reportedly works:
- Three 12-volt batteries power four motors held inside
a metal contraption, which is about the size of a washing machine.
- The motors spin an internal disc assembly at about 1,400
rpm at its peak, which Lee says produces more power than is consumed.
- Not possible, said Roger Yu, professor and chairman of
Central Washington University's physics department. He said it is the First
Law of Thermodynamics that disproves Lee's boast. That theory states: "The
total energy of an isolated system is constant."
- In other words, energy output will never exceed the input,
- "It's one of the main tenants of physics,"
Yu said. "It is only possible to change the form of energy, but you
can't increase the energy. It's just common sense."
- The man who claims to have built Lee's "free energy
machine," Jim Murray of New Jersey, said it doesn't work like Lee
says it does.
- "He's using something that I designed, the counter-rotational
device, which is really absurd because nothing goes counter rotational,"
said Murray, who worked as an engineer for Lee for four years before quitting
- "The model that we built for Dennis tested out at
20 percent efficiency," Murray said, not more than 200 percent as
Lee boasts. In other words, when the machine is in operation, it gobbles
up 80 percent of the energy powering it.
- "He's got the inverse Midas touch," Murray
said about Lee. "You give him a bar of gold; he'll hand you a bucket
- Murray quit when Lee asked him to recalibrate the machine's
measuring gauges so they would give false readings.
- "I flatly refused and resigned that day," he
said. "I'm not going to prostitute myself for a lousy weekly salary."
- Murray said he was suspicious of Lee's claims but never
saw it firsthand until Lee asked him to rig the machine.
- "He's out there scamming people left and right,"
he said. "He targets older couples who have a few bucks put away who
are fundamentalist Christians.
- "He refers to himself as God's anointed one. Now
that takes a lot of brass. The only way I'd like to see him anointed is
with a big club."
- Just Pipe Dreams?
- Charles Doyle of Goldendale once believed Lee's boasts.
He paid $5,000 for a dealership after hearing Lee on a Portland radio station
in 1996. Doyle ended up touring with Lee and worked for him in New Jersey
for a year.
- "I guess I was one of the fools," Doyle said.
"I finally realized his business ideas were all pipe dreams. I hung
around because I thought maybe free energy was real. I wanted it to be
real. I was living with the people who thought it was real. It's basically
a cult. Either you believe or you're out."
- Doyle, 36, quit last year. He didn't sell any equipment
and finally sold his dealership to a friend in exchange for a tuneup on
his 1987 Subaru.
- "That's how much I thought it was worth," he
said. "The products will never ever be worth anything."
- Eric Krieg of Philadelphia has been following Lee's claims
from across the country. Krieg, an electrical engineer and president of
the Philadelphia Skeptics Club, says he wants people to know that Lee has
bilked people out of millions. He has a Web page that counters Lee's claims
- "The most pathetic cases are the ones that got their
whole churches to invest, their family and friends," said Krieg, who
urges people to believe the 152-year-old First Law of Thermodynamics, not
the boasts of a 53-year-old businessman.
- "Lee can break the laws of the land," he said,
"but not the laws of nature."