AIRLEAF VICTIMS UPDATE FEBRUARY 23, 2008
Dear Airleaf Victims and Friends,
As of today, we have 408 Airleaf Victims in our group. Welcome to our new members.
Tonight and tomorrow evening on the History Channel, you can watch our own Jack Powell in a special on Hillbillys--The Real Story hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus. It's a fascinating documentary which will teach you about a little known part of our country's history. It airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. Check your local listings.
First, I want to thank you, as a group, for taking the time to write to Indiana's U.S. Attorney Timothy Morrison last weekend and throughout the week. I want to go over his response to us to clarify where he stands and where we as a group stand.
Last weekend, I sent Mr. Morrison this email before I asked you to do the same:
From: BonKaye@aol.com [mailto:BonKaye@aol.com]
Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2008 12:23 PM
Subject: From Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed., Organizer Airleaf Victims
Dear Mr. Morrison,
I am respectfully requesting that your office communicate with me as the organizer of our group of 405 authors in the Airleaf Victims group. My website is at www.AirleafVictims.com.
I had originally been in touch with Steve DeBrota, but my phone calls for the past two weeks are going unreturned. Perhaps he is no longer on the case.
Please let me know if your office is assisting our victims who have been taken in excess of one million dollars by the fraudulent practices of Carl Lau and Airleaf Publishing. You can check with the FBI and Postal authorities through Captain Jeff Buskirk in Martinsville, Indiana, who has put our case together.
We are very distraught at the responses of the Indiana government agencies including the Attorney General's office, the Governor's office, and the two State Senator offices. We are frustrated and would like to know how you can help us.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed.
Organizer, Airleaf Victims
Here was his response on Tuesday, February 19, 2008:
Dear Ms. Kaye:
This matter has not yet been referred to our office by any law enforcement agency. We have seen no reports nor results of any interviews. We are not an investigative unit but are dependent upon work-ups by groups like the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service, both whom you have involved in this.
The Assistant United States Attorney you contacted, Steve DeBrota, was the duty attorney for the office on the day you called. He is not assigned this case, because, as I explained above, no investigative agency has referred it to us. Your telephone calls have been unreturned for the past few weeks, because Mr. DeBrota has been committed to a multi-victim, child exploitation case in the northern part of our district. That case was referred to us and prosecution has commenced.
I am sure the Governor, the Indiana Attorney General, and the offices of Senators Bayh and Lugar are also “distraught.” None of these entities have any criminal jurisdiction in Indiana. The only entities that do—and have relevance here—is the Morgan County, Indiana, Prosecuting Attorney and our office. What can these offices you contacted do for you?
I hope that this group has retained counsel to sue the responsible parties and attempt to seize any relevant assets prior to adjudication on the merits. The burden of proof is lower than in a criminal prosecution and speed of initiation of suit can be faster. Furthermore, restitution is more limited under the criminal law. A successful criminal prosecution will not result in restitution for lost profits.
Finally, your ability to marshal an e-mail campaign that fills our webpage mailbox with more than 120 e-mails may be impressive but unproductive. One referred to me as Attorney General and castigated me for failing to return your calls. I have never spoken to you and I am not the Attorney General. Another told me his books were printed and shipped, but 100 of them were defective. (This is more evidence of breach of contract than criminal fraud) Consolidated communication will save time. Feel free to distribute this e-mail to your group.
We will work through this as we are provided with sufficient information.
Timothy M. Morrison, Acting U.S. Attorney
I felt somewhat "stung" by this response. I thought it was petty of Mr. Morrison to bring up two insignificant points of being referred to as the AG and the defective books. Instead, I would have liked for him to note that he was very saddened to hear about the fraudulence that our group had been part of and that he would do whatever he could to check this for us. Instead, he was asking me what the offices we contacted could do for us.
He acknowledged that my phone calls had not been returned because the attorney on duty was assigned to a more pressing case. I can understand that—but all it takes is communication to relay that. A call back from his department explaining this would have been sufficient and avoided the mass emails. I am not a party of one calling on my own behalf—I am representing a group of over 400 people who are looking for answers.
Mr. Morrison made the comment that restitution is more limited under criminal law, suggesting we find an attorney to sue for us. This was my response that I sent to him later that day:
Dear Mr. Morrison,
Thank you for your quick response to the Airleaf Victims. Quite frankly, we are very disgusted and frustrated at this point. Other than the police captain in Martinsville, Captain Jeff Buskirk, we have heard virtually no news about our case for over six months. We are not versed in the legal means of getting action in Indiana. We do know how virtually every government official has told us that this is not his responsibility and bumped us over to the next official.
Please understand that we are not in a position to hire an attorney. Many of our members are elderly and disabled, and they have invested every last penny they have into this predatory publisher who has now closed down. An attorney would cost us a lot of money, and most of us are tapped out from investing our money in Airleaf. With a company that has closed, it's hard to find an attorney who wants to take the case because there will be limited assets to retrieve. We understand that the owner, Mr. Carl Lau, is claiming bankruptcy.
At this point, we know that there are limited funds that may be returned. Regardless, we would like to see criminal charges pressed against Carl Lau and other employees who knowingly defrauded our authors. We need to send a message that is loud and clear that robbing people of their hopes, dreams, and money is not an allowable practice in Indiana where so many print-on-demand companies are now set up or setting up.
It was not my intention to clog your email system, but rather to make a mass plea to you to help us. We are feeling very lost in this matter. It seems to me that if one person was robbed in your state, action would be taken. We have over 400 people at this point who are part of our group who have been robbed, and yet all we hear is that it's no one's real responsibility and we should get an attorney.
Maybe you can still help us by contacting the FBI and Postal Authorities to make sure that this case is being investigated and that the criminal (s) will not be allowed to go unpunished. I will not have people write to you anymore. If I need information, I will come to you directly and relay your messages. If there is any information that I can provide for you that will help this case move along, please let me know.
Thank you for listening, and I appreciate whatever you can do for us.
Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed.
As a P.S., I received confirmation from 23 more of you who sent out the note to Mr. Morrison during the week, so nearly 150 of us have written to that office. There is no need to send out an email at this point if you haven't done so. Mr. Morrison certainly knows about the Airleaf Victims. One thing that this experience is teaching me at this stage of my life is how wrong my perceptions of government were. Morrison stated: "I am sure the Governor, the Indiana Attorney General, and the offices of Senators Bayh and Lugar are also “distraught.” None of these entities have any criminal jurisdiction in Indiana." This was amazing to me. I never realized that these political offices have no criminal jurisdiction. Did you?
On a personal note, I do know that things are moving, even if the wheels are spinning slowly for our satisfaction. Many of you are left in limbo at the moment because you are anxious to receive your files and books. I am hoping that Captain Buskirk will have some news for us this week.
Some of us received forms this week from the Attorney General's office once again called Consumer Complaint Forms. I called Tom Irons from the AG's office who is the most responsive of all government officials I have dealt with. He is checking to see why this second form was sent to us since we filled out the original form online and then received a hard copy form to fill out after that. He will get back to me this week, so you can wait until you hear from me before you fill this one out. Please be assured that since Tom took over our case a few weeks ago that he is working on getting our case together. Hopefully, he will be able to pursue a civil case on our behalf.
One of our authors wrote to me about a publishing company, Capstone Fiction, for Christian FICTION. This is in NO WAY to be confused with Capstone Productions, the Hollywood movie company that Carl Lau claimed he was working with. A number of our victims fit into this category. I checked out the company through the Internet and our wonderful resource Victoria Strauss to see if this would be a viable avenue for some of our authors. When I felt comfortable with the results, I wrote to one of the owners, Ramona Tucker, about our situation and asked if our Christian fiction authors could apply to be published with them. Here are some excerpts from Ramona's response:
I am SO saddened to hear about the experience of your group members with AIrleaf! I hate hearing such stories (and unfortunately, in 25 years of publishing, I’ve heard quite a few of them.) I had never heard of Airleaf, but was able to read through your website information about it just now), but it sounds to me like it was a “self-publisher” (in other words, each of your writers PAID that company to publish their book. There wasn’t really any personal investment from the publisher that they loved/believed in that book. Such things happening—and authors getting taken for a ride because they are so desperate to be published that they’re willing to pay anything—are one of the many reasons we launched Capstone! To give new authors an opportunity to publish and to slowly start growing their reader base…since every good thing takes its time! Capstone is not about “competing” to get the top book/top author; it’s about our passion to get wonderful books that we believe could make it nationally--books with fresh plots, quirky characters into the hands of readers of a broad spectrum of readers. And without the “fear” that if they don’t sell enough the first year that the book will get “axed” by the publisher, as is happening more and more frequently these days.)
Capstone is a one-year-old company (we celebrated our first anniversary on Dec. 31, 2007) but founded by myself and Jeff Nesbit, both veterans of the publishing industry. You can find out a lot about us by googling our names, Capstone Fiction, and going to our website at www.Capstonefiction.com.
Who is Capstone? We are a traditional publisher (in other words, just like Tyndale, Zondervan, Nelson, etc.); when we sign an author’s work, that means we believe in the work and feel strongly that it needs to have a chance in the marketplace (whether it sells 500 copies, 5,000 copies, or 50,000 copies over its lifetime!). Our primary mission is to create opportunities for new, talented Christian writers, while also promoting leading-edge fiction by established Christian authors. Today’s market is very tough for new writers. Most publishing houses, due to tightening the belts with the economy, sign/promote 2-3 top authors, but there’s little room for anyone new (that doesn’t already have a huge platform) to make an inroad. A walk through any Christian bookstore will show you that many of the titles are by the same authors. Also, Christian/inspirational publishers publish very little in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, juvenile/children’s literature. And it is rare for a publisher to produce a 4-color children’s book since Berryman Graphics (the one huge color press) shut their doors a couple years ago (yet Capstone has produced 2 color titles in the first year of our publication. In a process that normally takes 3 years (6-9 months to read/acquire a manuscript, 3 months for a contract, 6-9 months in editorial/design, and 6-9 months in production, Capstone had already produced 47 titles (going through the same process of acquiring, contracting, editing, designing, etc., that all traditional publishers use) by the end of our first year, on Dec. 31, 2007!
Our titles represent numerous genres of inspirational fiction: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, literary, mystery, biblical, detective, humor, legal/political thrillers, biblical, and suspense. And in a day when, in light of economic realities, publishers have chosen to publish very few children’s and young adult titles, we have published 10 titles spanning those categories.
So, Bonnie, that’s a little bit about us. (And probably more than you wanted!) Take a look at our site, too. We’re straightforward kind of folks. We believe in honesty, integrity, have a passion for broadening the scope of inspirational publishing and giving new authors of brilliantly crafted novels (fiction, only—for all ages). We would welcome submission from any writers, once you and they have checked us out. (And no, we are not an “e” publisher, to combat that notion: when you order a Capstone title from amazon.com for example, you get it in exactly the same timeframe you’d get any other book you order, and in hard copy!) We also work with one of the most creative and brilliant head designers in the publishing business, who has over 22 years in the field, as well (and you can see the result in the wonderful Capstone titles pictured on our site). You’ll find submission guidelines, etc., online, as well. The only thing that has really changed in the interim (which we haven’t been able to update in the flurry), is that it takes us about 4-6 weeks to respond to queries, since we were recently deluged with 800 manuscripts. Word is getting around, and it’s very exciting to see the wonderful manuscripts coming our way!
Thanks for writing, Bonnie! I hope this information is helpful to you and the rest of your group.
If you have a Christian fiction book and would like to submit your query, you can visit their site at www.CapstoneFiction.com. It is a very informative and easy to use site.
To date, I have received 163 surveys back from you. Thank you so much for taking the time to fill these out. I will be compiling the data during the first week of March and getting back to you with the results. If you haven't sent yours in, there is still time. You can do it by email or snail mail. If you need help, just let me know.
The most important thing to remember is that we have to remain vigilant and not get discouraged by the lack of visible progress. Carl Lau is counting on time being on his side and our frustration making us give up. Remember—good things come to those who wait, and they will certainly come to us.
With love and hope,