Fraudulent Business Directory Scammers Banned from Doing Business, Must Reimburse Victims
The defendants in two online business directory scams, one based in Montreal, the other in Oklahoma City, have been banned from the business directory business under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Both operations were charged with defrauding small businesses and nonprofits by charging them for online business directory listings they had not ordered or received – their deceptive tactics included unsolicited telemarketing calls and bogus invoices with the walking fingers image often associated with local yellow page directories.
In June 2014, the FTC and the State of Florida filed a complaint against Francois Egberongbe, Robert N. Durham, Sr., and 7051620 Canada Inc., based in Montreal, and a federal court subsequently halted the operation and froze its assets pending litigation.
Under a newly announced settlement order, the defendants are banned from telemarketing, and they will pay $1.7 million to reimburse consumers who lost money to the scam.
In July 2014, the FTC charged Your Yellow Book Inc. (YYB), Brandie Michelle Law, Dustin Robert Law, and their father, Robert Ray Law, based in Oklahoma City, with defrauding small businesses, doctors' offices, retirement homes, and religious schools. The defendants asked consumers to "verify" or "update" information in YYB's Internet business directory and to pay up to $487. Many consumers paid, believing their organization had agreed to be listed in the directory.
The settlement order in this case imposes a $715,476 judgment against the defendants, causing surrender of certain bank accounts, and proceeds from the sale of a vehicle, boat, and camper owned by Dustin Law. The judgment against Brandie Law is suspended, but the full judgment will become due immediately if she is found to have misrepresented her financial condition.
Under both settlement orders, the defendants are also prohibited from making the kinds of misrepresentations alleged in the FTC's complaint, and from profiting from customers' personal information, failing to properly dispose of customer information, and collecting money from customers.