SANTA ANA, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- DirecTV once more faces a racketeering lawsuit alleging it has conducted unfair trade practices and has colluded
with a law firm and an unnamed entity in extorting small businesses, especially
those that are minority-owned, by threatening legal action over alleged erroneous billing.
Doneyda Perez, owner of Oneida's Beauty and Barber
Salon in Garden Grove, California, filed a class action lawsuit, on behalf of her and others similarly situated, in U.S.
District Court for the Central District of California Southern Division alleging DirecTV entered their businesses unsolicited and offered
satellite services for a small amount per month.
No contracts were signed or
other documents produced putting the agreement into writing and the plaintiffs
were never told they would be put into the residential category, the suit says. DirecTV
auditors reported later the plaintiffs were basically committing TV
DirecTV would be informed and would send out bills for
thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars to these businesses, saying they
should have been charged commercial rates, the lawsuit states. Those entrepreneurs who refused to pay
were then threatened with being sued, often times by named defendant Lonstein
Law Offices PC of New York, with Julie Cohen Lonstein singled out in this
One lawyer who has had many past dealings with
DirecTV, Susan Elizabeth Wright, has alleged that the fall in TV piracy cases
caused the Lonstein law firm to develop a new scheme for extorting money.
alleges “Lonstein associates trained DirecTV auditors how to find small
business owners using residential accounts,” adding that after a few years of operation,
DirecTV purportedly uncovered what Lonstein was doing and changed collection
The money, however, was reportedly too good for
Lonstein, which then paid auditors out of its own pockets because “the practice
of going after these small commercial establishments was not desired by its
client [DirecTV] [but] it resulted in mandatory attorney fees for the Lonstein
firm and, more important, gave the Lonstein firm a necessary tool [the demand
letter] to essentially extort money out of these unsuspecting DTV customers.”
Newsline spoke with Lonstein’s
lawyer, Connie M. Anderson from Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith of Los
Angeles, about the impending suit against her client.
As to specific charges, particularly the one
pertaining to the firm’s supposed hiring of auditors, Anderson said she is
“not at the stage yet when [she] can respond to” individual allegations.
Anderson dismissed Perez’s suit against her client as lacking merit, saying
that she did not see how a “lawyer can be sued for representing their client. We’ll be filing motions against these charges”
asserting that Lonstein did nothing more than only provide assistance to her
client that is allowed for under state and federal law.
Asked by Legal
Newsline about the many cases filed against DirecTV for similar
reasons, Anderson said “This
is the first time I have represented Julie [Cohen Lonstein].” Although stating
she did not represent DirecTV, Anderson said she was aware of the “copycat
cases” over the years.
Lawyers like Wright allege DirecTV and Lonstein
targeted small, rural businesses, preferably those owned by minorities. Wright
says the targeting of minorities is on purpose because of DirecTV and
Lonstein’s alleged belief that they are less likely to hire attorneys to fight
In the past, DirecTV has dismissed similar lawsuits.
Robert G. Mercer has previously said
“[The] allegations are
completely false. These business owners were violating federal law, our
customer agreements and taking unfair advantage of neighborhood bars and
restaurants that are paying legitimate commercial rates for programming. We are
confident these baseless claims will ultimately be rejected.”
Perez’s suit stems from 2014. After accepting the
offered deal, Perez says that following the installation of the service,
'independent' auditors were sent to her store to “clandestinely obtain photographs and/or
video recordings” as evidence that she was using the satellite cable television
services in an unauthorized manner because the services provided was under a “residential,
rather than commercial account.
The other named plaintiffs and Perez seek trial by jury, actual damages, treble compensatory
damages, disgorgement of profits, attorney fees, costs of suit, interest and
other relief the court deems just. She is represented by attorneys Kevin Mahoney,
Katherine J. Odenbreit and Atoy H. Wilson of Mahoney Law Group APC in Long