The defendants in two online business directory schemes, one based in Montreal, the other in Oklahoma City, have been banned from the business directory business under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission.
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 settlement announced today, 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 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.
The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction against in Egberongbe, Durham and 7051620 Canada Inc. was 5-0. The proposed order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on December 12, 2014. The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction against Your Yellow Book Inc. and the Laws was 5-0. The order was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Division on December 2, 2014.
NOTE: Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
To learn more, read Small Business Scams.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Office of Public Affairs
National Business Advertising
Anna M. Burns, FTC Southeast Region
Your Yellow Book
Reid A. Tepfer, FTC Southwest Region