New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Obtains Temporary Restraints Against Operator of Allegedly Fraudulent "Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit"
A State Superior Court Judge on Monday granted the application submitted by Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and ordered the organizer of an allegedly fraudulent “Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit” to immediately cease the advertising, offering for sale and conduct of the event, which was scheduled to take place December 17, 2012.
Judge Harriet F. Klein of the Superior Court in Essex County, also ordered William S. Loiry, the organizer of the ‘summit’, to notify the public and all attendees that the event has been cancelled.
“We are pleased that the Court granted the State’s request for temporary restraints, and enjoined the defendant from going forward with his ‘summit.’ We sought to stop this event in order to protect New Jerseyans from falling victim to the defendants’ alleged false advertising while they desperately seek the means to rebuild and recover from an unprecedented natural disaster,” Attorney General Chiesa said. “We repeat our warning to anyone unscrupulous enough to seek to take advantage of those harmed by Hurricane Sandy: Keep your dishonest business practices out of our state, or we will take the steps necessary to keep you out.”
The State’s Verified Complaint, filed on behalf of the State Division of Consumer Affairs by the Division of Law, against Loiry, of Lynn Haven, Florida, alleges that he violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by conducting business in New Jersey under assumed names that are not registered to do business in the state or anywhere else (United States Leadership Forum, NY/NJ Restoration Leadership, and Ultimate Events, LLC); by falsely implying that he and his activities are affiliated with or endorsed by federal, state, or local government agencies; and through misleading advertisements which falsely represented that top government officials would be speaking at his event.
The lawsuit, filed on December 7, 2012, seeks not just to stop the “Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit” from going forward, but also obtain refunds for any persons who paid a registration fee for the event.
“This defendant’s track record includes a 2011 bankruptcy filing that has been opposed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee due to alleged fraud, as well as many outstanding judgments against Loiry stemming from unpaid debts from post-disaster events he held in other states, including Louisiana. We took swift action to stop Loiry from taking advantage of storm victims here in New Jersey,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “The Division of Consumer Affairs has made it abundantly clear, from our lawsuits against 18 businesses alleged to have engaged in price gouging, that we are committed to ensuring those affected by Hurricane Sandy will not be victimized again.”
Shortly after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, Loiry allegedly set up a website (www.SandyReconstruction.org) and sent out more than 300,000 emails advertising a “Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit” to be held on December 17, 2012 at an undisclosed location in Trenton. His communications strongly implied that the event and its organizers were affiliated with or endorsed by the Federal and/or State governments, going so far as to prominently feature the Seal of the President of the United States and a picture of the United States Capitol. Loiry sent the emails from the “NY/NJ Restoration Leadership” and purported that it was being held by the “United States Leadership Forum.” According to the Verified Complaint, Loiry is the only member of these entities and neither is registered to legally conduct business in New Jersey. The website and emails allegedly promised that attendees would receive information from top federal, state, and local government officials about governmental relief, reconstruction, and financing programs, among other things, when, in fact, no such officials were booked to speak.
Acting Director Kanefsky invited Loiry to visit the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Newark headquarters on December 4, 2012, in order to provide information concerning the upcoming event. Among other things, Loiry allegedly provided a list of five individuals who were confirmed speakers. Only one individual appeared to be a government official – a Louisiana parish president, whose representative subsequently told the Division that he did not plan to attend the summit. Another confirmed speaker turned out not to have the government affiliation that Loiry claimed he had, according to the Verified Complaint.
The Verified Complaint notes that Loiry filed for personal bankruptcy in September 2011, which is still pending. The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee has opposed Loiry’s discharge in bankruptcy in a complaint that alleges, among other things, that Loiry “concealed, destroyed, falsified, or failed to keep or preserve any recorded information … from which his financial condition or business transactions might be ascertained” and that he “knowingly and fraudulently, in or in connection with his bankruptcy case, made one or more false oaths or accounts.”
The Verified Complaint also notes that there are approximately 20 outstanding judgments against Loiry, many stemming from post-disaster events he held in other states.
Loiry allegedly charged a $175 to $275 per-person registration fee for the summit and has collected that fee from 30 consumers. He also offered corporate sponsorships and allegedly collected $1,000 from two businesses.
Deputy Attorney General Glenn T. Graham of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the State in this action. Chief Investigator Laurie Goodman and Investigator Aziza Salikhov in the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection, conducted the investigation.
Consumers who suspect any violation of consumer protection laws, particularly as a result of Hurricane Sandy, are urged to call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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