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Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 12:58 pm

Treasure Hunter strikes gold

From bankruptcy to Bentleys, Jeffrey Parsons has hit the big time

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Jeffrey Parsons

Six years ago, Jeffrey Parsons of Athens declared bankruptcy.

The filing came after he was sued by Attorney General Lisa Madigan for alleged violations of consumer protection and deceptive business practices statutes by a Parsons company that sold fireworks, some deemed illegal by the state fire marshal. In Springfield, he is known for establishing drive-up Get & Go vending kiosks, home of the 25-cent soda, that disappeared after the city enacted landscaping and parking standards. Before that, he sold produce from stands set up in parking lots at J.C. Penney and White Oaks Mall.

Parsons’ fortunes have reversed with the rise of Treasure Hunters Roadshow, which sends buyers across the nation to acquire precious metals and antiques, then sells the bounty, often on eBay.

Last month, Parsons paid off more than $1 million in federal tax liens from unpaid 2010 taxes while also agreeing to pay $150,000 to settle a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by WGBH Educational Foundation, which produces the PBS series “Antiques Roadshow.”

Judging by court filings in Parsons’ pending divorce, he can afford it.

Treasure Hunters Roadshow last year had more than $125 million in revenue, with Parsons pocketing more than $12 million, according to court records that include the company’s tax returns from 2010 and 2009. The rise in revenue has been staggering: In 2008, the company’s tax returns show $15.3 million in revenue, according to an accountant retained by Parsons’ estranged wife; in 2009, the company took in $49.3 million, according to THR’s tax return included in court filings.

Jeffrey Parsons
On Oct. 3, Sangamon County Associate Judge Steve Nardulli approved an agreement between Parsons and his estranged wife that requires Parsons to pay $25,000 a month in support while also finishing construction on the couple’s home in Athens, where such amenities as an indoor fountain and landscaping have gone uncompleted since the couple’s 29-year marriage went south.

Neither Parsons nor his attorney, John Narmont, could be reached for comment. When a reporter called THR & Associates, which runs Treasure Hunters Roadshow, a man who did not identify himself before hanging up said that the company had no comment.

Besides agreeing to pay Jennifer Parsons $25,000 a month, the THR president in the Oct. 3 agreement also promised to stay away from the Athens home and not install any GPS devices on his estranged wife’s vehicles.

According to a Sept. 16 order for protection in Menard County that was dismissed subsequent to the Oct. 3 agreement in Springfield, one of Jeffrey Parsons’ employees was found putting a tracking device on Jennifer Parsons’ Mercedes SUV while it was parked at the home, and police recovered the device.

Peggy Ryan, attorney for Jennifer Parsons, declined an interview request, but in court filings she says that she believes that much of Jeffrey Parsons’ wealth remains undiscovered.

“The wealth and access to cash of Jeffrey Parsons is extraordinary…,” Ryan writes in a request for interim attorney fees of $50,000. “Thousands of dollars have been spent attempting to ascertain the income and wealth of Jeffrey Parsons and THR & Associates, Inc., and counsel for Petitioner believes she has made just a dent in the necessary process of discovering income, assets and wealth.”

Jeffrey Parsons will pay $35,000 in interim attorney fees to Ryan while the case is pending, according to the Oct. 3 agreement signed by Nardulli.

Jeffrey Parsons is also in the crosshairs of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who sued him for alleged violations of the state Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act in 2005, when he owned a fireworks company called Four Seasons International. According to Madigan’s lawsuit, Jeffrey Parsons offered managers of fireworks stands as much as $10,000 for less than two weeks of work, but the money never materialized. The lawsuit came two years after the state fire marshal’s office sued Parsons, claiming that he was selling illegal fireworks.

Madigan’s lawsuit languished after Jeffrey Parsons declared bankruptcy, but the attorney general in July revived the matter earlier this year and is seeking a default judgement. The case is pending in Sangamon County Circuit Court. by requesting a default judgment, and the case remains pending.

While legal clouds swirl, Jeffrey Parsons has been spending, according to his estranged wife. In court filings that include bills from contractors, Jennifer Parsons says that her estranged husband has purchased a Bentley automobile, spent $291,000 on improvements to property in the Ozarks and is building “a very large hunting lodge” in Griggsville, with six-figure invoices paid by THR & Associates. The company in 2009 also purchased a Springfield home for $165,000 where Jeffrey Parsons’ girlfriend, an expectant mother, lives, according to court filings and Sangamon County property records.

“While Jeff is spending extraordinary amounts of money, I am being restricted to receipt of about $12,500 per month,” Jennifer Parsons says in a court affidavit filed Sept. 30.

Jennifer Parsons, however, is not without means. According to court documents, she has $78,000 in a checking account and a 1977 Rolls Royce in addition to her 2009 Mercedes.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.