Bella Solviva, according to its owners, Brad and Sandy Carlson, supposedly means “beautiful hope.” “Beautiful hype” might have been more like it, as perhaps signalled by its inexplicable mash-up of two different languages.
Bella Solviva was unveiled in 2015, amid fawning media coverage and lavish online pictures, as a 229-acre first-class Michigan glamping resort. Visitors would be able to book a dizzying array of accommodations, from converted yachts and an airliner to luxury tents, travel trailers and treehouses, and would have access to such amenities as a fitness center, massages and catered meals. The “eco-chic” facility would feature organic cotton linens and grey water recycling. As reservations started rolling in, Bella Solviva’s website also offered annual memberships, a rewards program and purchase of gift certificates of up to $5,000.
It was all a scam. The pictures were copied from other sites, ground was never broken and various necessary permits were never obtained–even as Bella Solviva continued soliciting reservations. After two years of growing consumer complaints, the Better Business Bureau issued a consumer alert observing that the company had not “even started initial construction,” and less than a week after that the road-side sign marking the property had disappeared. Bella Solviva as a corporate entity was dissolved a year later, in July of 2018. But it took another three years after that for the Carlsons to be called to account–if you can call it that–as they pleaded no contest this past week to multiple state charges of larceny. Their penalty? Two years’ probation.
This wasn’t the couple’s first exercise in financial recklessness (to be kind), as they had juggled several businesses over the years with no apparent success and had filed for bankruptcy just a couple of years before starting the glamping grift. But the more dismaying aspect of the entire episode is how Bella Solviva lives on in some quarters, a zombie scam that refuses to die even though it’s been defanged.
To whit: this past June 15–which is to say, months after the Carlsons were indicted and years after their scam had gone up in smoke–a website called RVshare published what it described as an updated version of an article it had previously published April 13, 2016. The headline on the 2021 “update?” “Luxurious Glamping in Northern Michigan.” The text went on to rhapsodically describe a facility “that will offer guests a combination of contact with natural beauty and all the creature comforts of modern life,” while also acknowledging that “the resort is still in its preliminary stages.”
Indeed. Proving, yet again, that just because you read something doesn’t mean it’s true.