AIRLEAF VICTIMS UPDATE MAY 10, 2008
Dear Airleaf Friends and Victims,
This is an important week of victory for all of us. It's not the kind of victory that we were hoping for yet—meaning getting back our money or getting recognition by the media that we as a group made this happen—but it is acknowledgement of our plight by the same government agency that I hold responsible for putting us in this position to start with.
By now, you've gotten my message that on Thursday, May 8, the Attorney General of Indiana, Steve Carter, gave this public announcement:
Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter has filed a lawsuit against book publisher and promoter Airleaf, LLC for taking money without providing the promised services in return. The lawsuit is seeking consumer restitution for at least 120 customers.
"More than 120 people are named in the lawsuit, including many from Indiana who lost thousands of dollars,” said Carter. “In fact, hundreds more may have lost money. They paid for services. Airleaf did not deliver, and now, those consumers deserve refunds.”
The lawsuit, filed in the Morgan Circuit Court, alleges Airleaf, formerly known as Bookman Marketing, LLC, and its owner, Carl Lau, violated Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. It states that the company advertised that it would provide book publishing, royalty reimbursement and promotional services to consumers in exchange for payment. The promotional services included in-person participation at book fairs, presentations to Hollywood movie producers, and newspaper, radio and television advertisements.
The lawsuit alleges that Airleaf accepted payment but failed to honor all, or part, of the Client Service Agreements and other agreements, dating back to at least January 2006. It also states than Lau used Airleaf assets and consumer payments to cover expenses unrelated to the business, and that Lau continued to solicit business and accept payments months after he indicated that Airleaf was insolvent
In addition to consumer restitution, the attorney general’s office is seeking civil penalties of up to $5,500 per violation, as well as investigative costs.
So here's what it really means.
1.We have won a victory in the sense that a suit has been filed against Airleaf.
2.Chances are, Airleaf will claim bankruptcy as well as its owner, Carl Lau.
3.It's hard to tell if assets will be uncovered that can be seized to use to reimburse us at this particular time.
4.At least this will stop Carl Lau from ever doing business again.
5.Most importantly at this time, it should be able to push this case to the next level, the federal level, where criminal charges can be brought against the criminals which hopefully will translate into jail time.
6.This case will have government officials more carefully monitoring other companies who are already repeating the Airleaf fraudulence or who plan to.
It's not the end of battle by a long shot. In fact, it's just the beginning. And this will be a long battle. Carl Lau is counting on our anger to pass, our memories to fade, and for our frustration to make us give up. WE CAN'T. We must remain vigilant in our efforts to see this man and other fraudsters punished accordingly. So, hang in there with me fellow victims. Let's not give up one inch or one ounce. I know this is a lengthy battle ahead of us, but we will stick together until we win.
One question that people have asked me is if they are one of the 120 people that the state of Indiana have sued for. I spoke with my hero, Tom Irons, who handled our case in the AG's office, and he explained that the AG's office can only go back for a two year period to file suit. That means the cases they filed had to be from 2006 –2008.
In Tom's words:
My office does not have any statutory authority to include anyone who dealt with/contracted with Airleaf/Bookman before May 2006. That is why many consumers that filed a consumer complaint with my office were not included in the lawsuit and why those similarly situated and who have not filed a complaint with us should not now do so.
However, each victim has an individual right to hire a private attorney to sue under any contract/agreement up to six years old. Of course the time and money to pursue individual suits in this particular situation does not appear at this point to be justified. I’ll let you know when the lawsuit has been posted on our website--I expect that to happen next week.
Our reality is that Airleaf may not have money per se to pay us back; however, if the federal criminal charges are pressed, Carl Lau may want to negotiate some sort of financial settlement with us. Maybe that's why he's selling our books back to us in order to raise money. (That's my jaded sense of humor—sorry!)
The government will be responsible for finding out what assets Carl Lau has or what assets he has hidden. Only then will we know for sure what money is available to be given back. After the case is posted on the AG website, I'll let you know by email so you can check and see if your name is posted.
Here are some of my personal thoughts on this issue.
I am overly grateful to Tom Irons who took over the job of Terry Tolliver in this case. It was through his persistence that this case was taken seriously and the suit was filed. He did the work on our behalf. He also was the best and most receptive government official I have ever spoken with in my entire life. He was always available to listen to my concerns and complaints; he was never evasive or rude. He's the kind of man that we hope to get in government but rarely find. Even though Steve Carter's name is mentioned in all of the articles concerning this case, he was not the one who helped us. If anything, I hold him responsible for us losing our money. Why? Because after his office issued an AVC order in May of 2007, it was his office's responsibility to watch out for us and to protect us. His office should have been closely monitoring Airleaf after that warning issued.
In one of my January updates, I posted this about the AG's office:
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, the Respondent has a sponsorship, approval, or affiliation in a consumer transaction it does not have, and 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, the Respondent is able to deliver or complete the subject of the consumer transaction within a stated, or reasonable, period of time, when the Respondent knows or should reasonably know it could not.
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.
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.
This is to remind you that the AG's office warned Airleaf back in May of 2007 that this warning would include any additional valid consumer complaints. By October, we had over 100 consumer complaints into that office, but nothing was done to stop Airleaf from operating. They should have been watched carefully from the moment that MY complaint was filed as the first one in this group back in August.
And so, our victory is bitter/sweet. Bitter because if the AG's office had been doing their job, chances are some of us would have had our money back. Sweet because at least we are being recognized as a force to deal with, thanks again to Tom Irons.
We have to also thank Detective Jeff Buskirk who believed in our case. He was willing to compile all of the information to help out the legal authorities.
I'll keep you updated on events as they transpire.
Another thought—I think it's amazing that news reporters are reporting this story but not the story about the Airleaf Victims who forced Airleaf to close its doors and pushed the AG's office into the suit by sending massive complaints. I have sent information to every press source which is doing this. I'll keep you posted on that as well.
Each week I am happy to promote your books in this update. If you have new books being published, feel free to share them with the group.
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That's it for this week. Hang in there…better days are ahead!
With love and hope,