Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the filing of a civil racketeering lawsuit against a Nevada corporation, operating out of Anaheim, California, for allegedly tricking thousands of Oregon businesses into endorsing negotiable checks that the company claimed were actually contracts for Internet "yellow page" listings.
Named in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Polk County Circuit Court are Yellow Pages, Inc.(YPI) and its president, John M. Wurth of Anaheim. The Oregon Department of Justice alleges in the suit that the defendants, from November 2003 through December 2004, mailed thousands of negotiable checks in a misleading solicitation to Oregon small businesses, churches and synagogues.
"Protecting legitimate Oregon businesses and non-profit and religious organizations from fraudulent enterprises is an important part of the Department of Justice legal mandate," Myers said. "In this case, the civil racketeering laws provided us the tools to sue this unscrupulous enterprise."
According to the complaint, the mailing piece was designed to imply a relationship with the recipient's commonly-used yellow page directory and the checks, ranging from $3.47 to $3.49, appeared to represent a refund of little consequence to resolve a small outstanding debt. The rest of the package allegedly did little to disclose the true nature of the mailing's purpose. Hence, victims thought they were dealing with their regular yellow pages directory rather than signing up for a new $179 Internet listing.
The complaint alleges that the 2,776 Oregon victims who cashed the checks then received invoices for an Internet listing. The invoices contained the phone number of the second business in the racketeering enterprise, Continental Recovery Services, Corp. of Simi Valley, California, doing business as Continental Recovery and Filing Solutions and CRF Solutions.
Businesses calling CRF Solutions were told CRF represented Yellow Pages, Inc. If the invoice for the Internet listing was not paid, CRF continued collection efforts. Nationwide, the YPI/CRF/John Wurth enterprise collected millions from victims. In Oregon, the enterprise invoiced victims for more than $496,000 and netted more than $131,000.
The lawsuit, the sixth filed by a state against Yellow Pages, Inc., asks for civil penalties of $250,000 from each defendant, attorney fees and investigative costs and the forfeiture of all monies and property derived from or used in the alleged illegal conduct. The suit also requests restitution for all victims, who paid invoices connected to the deceptive "live" check solicitation.
In addition, the lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from engaging in or having an interest in any enterprise that utilizes "live" checks to promote a product or service in Oregon.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org