Defendants added to Tenn. employment agency scam suit‏

Nick Rees Feb. 18, 2010, 2:55pm

Bob Cooper (D)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) - A motion has been filed by Tennessee Attorney General Bob Copper to add additional defendants to a previous lawsuit against an employment agency.

Cooper's amended complaint adds as defendants the west Tennessee-based Lorry Ronza, Kevin Shaw and Continental Business Solutions to the lawsuit, which alleges that the public was misled about their services.

The original complaint names Linda McCluskey, owner of Britton James & Associates, and three former agencies - Franklin Group of America, Hamilton Clark International and Renaissance Group International.

The individuals and employees are alleged to have promised consumers that jobs would be found at exaggerated salary levels and with a signing bonus. McCluskey's businesses are alleged to have not only failed to deliver the promised contracts but to have failed to arrange for interviews or failed to contact employers at all.

Popular job-seeking Web sites were used to advertise McCluskey's businesses, advertising for jobs with salaries ranging from $50,000 to $500,000. Consumers were allegedly told when they contacted the companies that the applicant would be placed "in front of the decision-makers" by "contacts" within the companies.

Identical advertisements that made the same fraudulent representations were allegedly posted on various Web sites by the defendants, who utilized several aliases in an attempt to garner more business.

The defendants also promised "career development, career management and career transition services" as well as other "job placement services." The defendants are also accused of charging an upfront fee to consumers, a violation of the state consumer and employment agency laws.

"If an employment agency is charging you a fee in advance of finding you a job, it's time to find another agency," Cooper said. "Under the Tennessee Employment Agency Act, an employment agency can collect fees only after the agency has secured a job for the employee.

The state is seeking restitution on behalf of consumers from the defendants as well as penalties and in injunction to prevent McCluskey or her associates from operating allegedly fraudulent and misleading employment agencies or engaging in unlawful practices in Tennessee.

Coopers motion, filed on behalf of Mary Clement, the director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, follows the announcement of the Federal Trade Commission's "Operation Bottom Dollar," a crackdown on several businesses nationwide that prey on unemployed Americans.

The FTC will target job-placement and work-at-home operations that promote deceptive and illegal job and money-making scams for enforcement and public education, it announced. Cases have been filed against a variety of companies that utilize advertising ploys, including for work as movie extras, mystery shoppers, envelope-stuffing and other alleged jobs. These jobs usually require an up-front fee be paid and then fail to provide the consumer with the job the advertisement promised.

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