Texas AG, Verizon in tandem with lawsuits

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 10, 2011, 11:54am


PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) - Verizon Wireless filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Phoenix on Monday outlining what they call "an ongoing scheme" using premium text-message services to defraud the company and its customers.

Verizon, in its filing, also asked the court for an injunction to put an immediate stop to the activities.

The Texas Attorney General's Office filed a similar suit against the same defendants on Monday, Verizon said in a statement.

Verizon said it just recently became aware of the possible fraud and "immediately" launched an investigation.

Among the things the company says it discovered was that the defendants defrauded Verizon by misappropriating approved short codes for unapproved "shadow campaigns" that did not comply with Verizon Wireless' consumer protection and disclosure policies.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants also were blocking certain IP addresses from accessing the websites associated with these shadow campaigns or were re-directing visitors to shell websites, preventing Verizon Wireless and its auditors from finding the shadow campaign websites.

Verizon's suit names Jason Hope and Wayne P. DeStefano and companies they own, including Cylon, Jawa and EyeLevel Holdings, among others.

Scottsdale-based EyeLevel Holdings and Jawa released the following statement in response to the lawsuits:

"We are disappointed and distressed that the Texas Attorney General and Verizon Wireless have filed these two lawsuits which are designed to significantly harm our business and stifle our right to speak freely with our customers.

"We strongly deny the allegations and note that neither the Texas Attorney General nor Verizon sought to contact Jawa prior to initiating these cases. Jawa has not been made aware of any customer complaints in Texas to date, and neither have we been contacted by the attorney general to inform us of such matters."

Jawa, it said, learned of the allegations on Tuesday.

"Jawa looks forward to resolving this matter while protecting its right to operate a legitimate business. Jawa hopes that others do not let this misinformed, tortious and damaging conduct by an uninformed few lead others to take misguided action that would conspire with Verizon to do us irreparable injury," the company said.

Verizon said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been "a strong partner" in shutting down the fraudulent activity. The company said it assisted and supported the Texas prosecutors in their investigation.

Steve Zipperstein, general counsel and vice president of legal and external affairs for Verizon Wireless, encouraged other wireless companies to get involved.

"As our work in the judicial system continues, I urge our competitors to quickly follow and put a stop to this fraud and ensure all mobile customers are protected," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

In addition to an injunction, Verizon Wireless' suit also seeks monetary relief.

Verizon said customers who believe they have been affected and think they are due a refund can visit www.premiumsmsrefunds.com to learn how to submit a claim.

Since 2004, Verizon Wireless, which is headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J, has brought more than 20 lawsuits against wireless spammers, telemarketers and pretexters.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

More News