January 12, 2008
Dear Airleaf Victims and Friends,
First, I’d like to welcome our new group members. We now have 358 members in our Airleaf Victims family which grows daily. There are many sad stories of victims who have suffered from the anguish of broken Airleaf promises and contracts.
Before I give you the news for the week, I am in the process of working on our publicity campaign. I have some interest from NY FOX. I’ve asked you in the past if you would be interested in participating in a story, and I have a few of you who have agreed to do this. If any other people are from the NY, NJ, or CT area and you would be willing to participate, please email me at Bonkaye@aol.com. In the next week, I will let you know if this will proceed. Also, I am looking for people in Indiana who are willing to do publicity about their experiences with Airleaf. If you live in Indiana and you are willing, please let me know.
I have a local CBS affiliate in Philadelphia who is interested in the story, so if you live in the Philadelphia or surround areas and you are willing to participate, please contact me. It’s time for us to move ahead with bringing media attention to our cause.
And speaking of that, if you haven’t sent your request in to Oprah to help our Airleaf victims, please fill this form out. The more letters her producers receive, the more they will think about doing our story.
LINK TO OPRAH OPRAH LINK
On Wednesday, I received a call from Tom Irons, the new Assistant Attorney General in Indiana who has taken over our case. Many of you received letters from Raven Bobbio, paralegal, who was compiling the case. The created a major source of frustration for me on a personal level. Once Terry Tolliver left back in November, Raven was the contact person. I left messages for her several times, but never received a return phone call. Tom said on his message that he is now in charge of the case, and that he would reconnect with me after he had a chance to go through things.
I decided not to wait until that time and called him on Friday. He was very helpful, courteous, and understanding of our frustrations. He wasn’t very familiar with all of the specifics of our case, but he had read our Airleaf Victims website and blog, so he had an indication of the depth of the problem. When I spoke to him, he had just gotten off the phone with Detective Jeff Buskirk who was giving him some of the details of our case.
After speaking to him for nearly an hour, I had a much better understanding of how the government of Indiana plays out in this situation. Tom explained that the AG’s office can only go after someone for civil charges—not criminal charges. They have the power to ask for restitution when there is money that can be restored. At this point of time with Airleaf closed, it’s an involving process discovering assets, and we as a group may need to decide if we want to do something along those lines. If any of you are involved in this kind of legal, financial, or detective work and can lend a hand, please let me know.
I explained our frustration in this matter with AG’s office since they have been very unresponsive to us as a group. I told him that I hold their office responsible for allowing this company to continue in view of the problems that arose last year when an AVC or Assurance of Voluntary Compliance was issued to Airleaf. An AVC, according to the website of Steve Carter, AG of Indiana is:
An agreement reached between the State and one or more respondents stipulating the conditions under which the respondent(s) will conduct business in the future. An AVC may require the defendant(s) to pay consumer restitution and investigative costs to the attorney general’s office. The document is filed with the court but is not an admission of guilt or liability for any legal offense. The State has a legal right to go back to court if information becomes available that the defendant is not abiding by the terms of the AVC.
This happened to Airleaf on May 25, 2007. Two authors appealed to the AG’s office to help them, and they won. I’ve read through the document, and according to the decision, I cut and pasted some of the major points:
The terms of this Assurance apply to and are binding upon the Respondent, its employees, agents, representatives, successors, and assigns.
The Respondent acknowledges the jurisdiction of the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General to investigate matters hereinafter described, pursuant to the authority of the Indiana Code.
The Respondent, in soliciting and/or contracting with consumers, agrees to refrain from representing, either orally or in writing, the subject of a consumer transaction has sponsorship, approval, performance, characteristics, accessories, uses, or benefits it does not have, which the Respondent knows or reasonably should know it does not have.
The Respondent, in soliciting and/or contracting with consumers, agrees to refrain from representing, either orally or in writing, a consumer will be able to purchase an item as advertised by the Respondent, if the Respondent does not intend to sell it.
The Respondent shall fully cooperate with the Office of the Attorney General in the resolution of any future written complaints the Consumer Protection Division receives. This shall include, but is not limited to, the Respondent promptly resolving any additional valid consumer complaints brought to the Respondent's attention by the Office of the Attorney General, either prior to, or after the filing of, this Assurance with the Court.
The Respondent, in soliciting and/or contracting with consumers, agrees to fully comply with the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Ind. Code Upon execution of this Assurance, the Respondent shall pay consumer restitution, in the total amount of Six Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Dollars
($6,999.00), to the Office of the Attorney General for allocation and distribution to the following consumers in the following amounts:
(a) John L. Kostoryz of Kansas City, Missouri $5,500.00; and
(b) John K. Phillips of Baton Rouge, Louisiana $1,499.00.
Upon execution of this Assurance, the Respondent shall pay costs in the amount of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) to the Office of the Attorney General. The Respondent shall fully cooperate with the Office of the Attorney General in the resolution of any future written complaints the Consumer Protection Division receives. This shall include, but is not limited to, the Respondent promptly resolving any additional valid consumer complaints brought to the Respondent's attention by the Office of the Attorney General, either prior to, or after the filing of, this Assurance with the Court.
I explained to Tom that we felt very angry that this order had been issued last May by THEIR office. They never followed through with it even though over 100 complaints have been processed.
I know that many more of you have sent in complaints to the AG’s office, but this is how their government works.
1. I filed a complaint online in August 2007.
2. I received written verification in September from the AG’s office and was asked to sign the online form. I sent it back immediately.
3. In December 10, 2007, I received a letter from Stephanie Medina in the AG’s office telling me that the letter confirms the receipt of the information I sent back, but says they are unable to process the complaint with the information submitted, and that now, I have to fill out another complaint form if my ICCC complaint has not been resolved. This is another long form with the same information as the original form filed in August. Why didn’t they just tell me this in September?
4. On December 31, 2007, I received a letter from paralegal Raven Bobbio stating that they have received my complaint and forwarded it to Airleaf. The form letter says, “I ask for your patience as our office attempts to mediate your complaint. We must allow a reasonable amount of time for Airleaf to reply.”
There is something really wrong here. In the five months since my initial complaint was filed along with a number of our early victims, many new people were defrauded. In as much as the AG’s office issued the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance in May, they should have immediately responded as soon as one more complaint was filed. I hold this office responsible for their negligence on acting on behalf of our victims who followed all of their rules but still had no help in stopping the criminal actions of Airleaf.
This proves to me more than ever that Carl Lau is truly a sociopath. The man believes he is “above the law.” Even when given directives to stop his unlawful business practices which I have highlighted in red for you, he continued even bigger and better to violate the rules. When his production department completely shut down in November, and there was not a printer in sight that would work with him because he owed out so much money, he continued to have publishing and promotional packages sold to unsuspecting victims. Let’s go back to the first part of the document also stated that:
The terms of this Assurance apply to and are binding upon the Respondent, its employees, agents, representatives, successors, and assigns.
This means that any person who worked for Airleaf who knowingly sold to you when they knew there was no way to deliver the promises is also legally responsible for violating this agreement. I plan to see what civil charges can be brought against those employees who are guilty, and I will keep you posted.
Tom Irons also explained that the federal agencies are the ones that need to bring the criminal charges. These are the FBI and Postal Inspector, so it’s vital that you fill out those forms.
Last week, I sent you the link to the postal forms. Some of you wrote to me and said that you didn’t save the documentation that Airleaf sent you. For those of you who don’t have the documentation, you can fill out an easy online complaint that only takes a few moments. Every complaint strengthens our case. Please drop me a note after you complete this step.
POSTAL ONLINE COMPLAINTS Here’s the link to the postal online form:
On Friday, I received a letter from Senator Lugar’s office. It stated that the Senator works with constituents from his state of Indiana, but they have sent my concerns to the Senator in my state of Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, and I should be hearing from his office soon. Thanks, Senator Lugar. I appreciate the referral—NOT! I called Senator Specter’s office to give them a heads up, and had a nice conversation with a representative. We both agreed that Pennsylvania has no jurisdiction over the business dealings in Indiana. My office would be happy to send a request to the Indiana AG’s office on my behalf, and I will take that step just to follow protocol, but I know it won’t have any effect whatsoever. So once again, the government of Indiana is ignoring the pleas for help from victims of a company in their state. Is it any accident that so many Print-on-Demand publishing houses are located there?
Here’s an update on iUniverse back-in-print. A number of you contacted them after THEY contacted me soliciting our authors for their back-in-print package for $299.00. It sounded like a reasonable solution for many of our authors who wanted to keep their books in print. Then this week, one of our authors informed me that iUniverse would not do the reprints unless they received a letter from Airleaf stating there is a reversion of rights. They said the company could have sold off the rights to other companies causing legal issues. Get everyone together with a petition for a reversion of rights because they were a suspicious company and they are not sure if the authors still owned their rights. I spoke to Kaitlin at iUniverse on Thursday about the problem. She researched it for me and left me a message suggesting that we get a petition together and ask the Attorney General to provide this information for us. I will call her back on Monday to discuss how we have in our contracts that we retain the rights to our book and see if that changes anything. We all know what will happen if you have to wait for the Attorney General to act on our behalf, so I don’t want to go that route. However, if any of you would like to call Carl Lau and ask him to provide that statement for you, feel free to do so. His information is:
Carl Lau, 846 Burwick Trcem, Greenwood, IN 46143-1910 Phone: (317) 889-6063.
Kaitlin also stated you could pay more money for their new publishing package and publish your book as a “second edition.” I decided to pass that on to you, but I am not suggesting it because there are companies that are more reasonable to work with than iUniverse for regular publishing packages.
I wanted to share some information with you from our fellow author Anthony Laurento. Tony has written a children’s book. He paid Airleaf over $5,000.00 for publishing, illustrations, and promotions. Now he has decided to take control over his own project and get it done on his own. He explained the process he used to find an illustrator. Some of you have written to me that you have the same issue of finding an illustrator for your books. I asked Tony to fill us in on how he found his illustrator.
The website is http://www.elance.com/
It is free and a very easy step-by-step program after you register and post your project. The whole bidding process took about 10 days and you can alter the time for the bidding as well as stipulate many parameters, including only local Illustrators or no international companies, and you ask for the price that you want to pay. All of the contracts go through Elance, and any changes between you and the illustrator go through Elance. I really enjoyed the process. The illustration company that I chose was called Deskcube, but it was a tough decision after I got down to the final 3. At least I felt in control the entire time, unlike with Airleaf.
I want to thank Tony for sharing this information, and if any of you have other suggestions that can help authors, please feel free to let me know.
With love and hope,