AG Van Hollen: Obtains judgment against New York locksmith business

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Bill Cosh 608/266-1221

MADISON — The Department of Justice has obtained a judgment of $25,000 against a New York-based locksmith business, Locksmiths, Inc., and its owner, Gabriel Munteoreanu, of Brooklyn, New York. The judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the state in Ozaukee County Circuit Court in November 2009, that resulted from an investigation by the Department of Justice into fraudulent yellow pages locksmith listings.

According to the complaint, Locksmiths, Inc. attracted business through the use of numerous local telephone numbers, phony business names and false addresses in order to mislead consumers seeking locksmith services. The purpose of the phony listings was to deceive consumers into believing they were calling a local locksmith business, when in fact all of the numbers connected the consumer to the out-of-state call center of Locksmiths, Inc., which then dispatched a contract locksmith. The state alleged that these practices violated Wisconsin’s fraudulent advertising law.

According to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, “consumers have a right to know the truth about the location and nature of the businesses with which they are dealing. We take seriously dishonest conduct such as misrepresenting that a business is local when it is not and, as this lawsuit shows, we will not tolerate it. Consumers should be aware that unscrupulous businesses can flood the yellow pages or internet directories with false names and addresses, and local phone numbers that simply route calls to out-of-state businesses. If you are unsure whether the business with which you are dealing is truly local, I recommend you take steps to check it out and make sure.”

The state negotiated a settlement with defendant Gabriel Munteoreanu, the owner of Locksmiths, Inc., and obtained a default judgment against Locksmiths, Inc., under which the defendants must pay $25,000 for forfeitures and attorney’s fees to the State of Wisconsin. In addition, Munteoreanu and Locksmiths, Inc. are barred from conducting any further locksmith-related business in Wisconsin.

The settlement was approved and the judgment entered on March 29, 2010 by Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Tom R. Wolfgram. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General John S. Greene.