Last May–largely as a result of tireless campaigning by writers’ activist Bonnie Kaye–the Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed suit against fraudulent vanity publisher Airleaf and its CEO, Carl Lau. The suit seeks restitution for 120 identified authors (the true number of the defrauded is closer to 450), civil penalties of up to $5,500 per violation, and reimbursement for the cost of the investigation.
In addition, complaints for criminal charges were filed with the Indiana U.S. Attorney’s office. But last week, Bonnie learned that the U.S. Attorney has decided not to proceed with bringing criminal charges against Lau and Airleaf.
I just received this letter from Bonnie, which I’m publishing in its entirety. If you can help by signing Bonnie’s petition to reverse the U.S. Attorney’s decision, please contact her at Bonkaye@aol.com. You don’t have to be an Airleaf victim–just a concerned member of the writer community.
As the organizer of the Airleaf Victims, a group of over 600 authors who have joined together over the fraudulent activities of the now defunct company of Airleaf Publishing in Martinsville, Indiana, I was extremely disheartened and shocked when the FBI informed me on April 3, 2009, that the United States Attorney of Indiana, Timothy Morrison, had decided that our case was not going to be prosecuted by his office. According to Mr. Morrison, our case does not meet the “criminal codes” of Indiana.
When my campaign against Airleaf started in August 2007, I gathered from authors in this country as well as Canada, the UK, Australia, Mexico, and South America concrete proof of money that was paid for services that were never provided. For the 18 months that I helped the federal agencies gather this information, it was very clear to me that according to their codes, as explained to me, I was able to make a case separating what they could construe as “bad business practices at best” from “criminal practices.”
Hundreds of forms were sent to the FBI, Postal Inspector, and Attorney General’s office during this investigation from authors who had hundreds to thousands of dollars disappear with no services. The fraudulence of Airleaf went way beyond book publishing; blatant scams included promises to sell books in Europe on trips that were never taken; selling a cruise to authors that was never booked nor the money returned; selling magazine reviews that were never sent to the magazines; promising to make movies out of books but never turning them into films; and continuing to collect royalties (though not pay them to authors) from Internet distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble long after Airleaf was shut down. This is just a small sample of Airleaf’s efforts to steal money from authors. Your readers can read the list of charges, and some of the stories of our victims, at my website at www.AirleafVictims.com.
Some of our victims spent their entire life savings on these scams. Many of them are elderly or disabled people who were sold a dream that became a nightmare. If Airleaf had no intention of fulfilling their promises, then it was their responsibility to return the money to the authors. No money was returned, but the owner, Carl Lau, certainly enjoyed a plush lifestyle with an airplane and a cabin cruiser from our hard earned money. The Executive Vice President, Brien Jones, was earning a six-figure salary with our money until he decided to open his own publishing company, Jones Harvest. His authors are standing right in line behind the Airleaf Victims, with over 70 documented complaints to date, which you can read about on my website www.JonesHarvestFraudVictims.com.
I am asking the author community to express its outrage and give support to our victims by signing a petition to the U.S. Attorney, Timothy Morrison, which I will personally deliver to his office in June with some of my fellow authors. I have just launched my new website at www.IndianaWelcomesCrooks.com to publicize this injustice. I am hoping that the good people of Indiana will stand by us as we push to have this decision reversed, so that criminal charges will be pressed against those who cheated so many of us.
The Attorney General’s office filed a judgment against Carl Lau and Airleaf nearly a year ago; unfortunately, he is claiming bankruptcy and there is no money to be returned. That is why criminal charges on the federal level are so important. If they are not handed down, then the criminals will walk away without punishment after taking over $2 million of our money. If the U.S. Attorney’s decision isn’t reversed, predatory publishers will see it as a green light to proceed in Indiana. This is an outrage.
If your readers are willing to sign our petition, please have them contact me at Bonkaye@aol.com and I will email them a copy.
Thank you such much for your help.
Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed.