Two individuals who exploited writers got their comeuppances recently.
Robin Price of Avalon Associates, Media Arts International, and Prospero Films
Robin Price, a fake literary agent and film producer accused of bilking writers out of more than £500,000 over a number of years, admitted in a UK court on Wednesday to six counts of theft. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
Price, who changed the name of his company several times to dodge complaints on the Internet, started out by setting himself up as a literary agent and charging relatively modest reading fees. Later, he presented himself as a film producer, convincing clients to hand over enormous sums of money to invest in non-existent film and publishing deals. He claimed extensive experience and contacts within the entertainment industry–this was a complete fabrication, but apparently Price was persuasive. One client paid him nearly £300,000, while others paid fees ranging from several hundred to many thousands of pounds.
I blogged about Price in January 2010, just after his first court appearance; my post contains a lot more detail about his various activities, including his use of well-known writers’ names (without their knowledge) to further his schemes. Writer Beware was very familiar with him by the time he was arrested, having received a sizeable number of complaints. The court case identified 30 victims–but there are surely many more.
David William Caswell, New Century Publishing
In August 2010, the Indiana Attorney General filed suit against David William Caswell, CEO of US-based pay-to-play publisher New Century Publishing, for multiple violations of Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Act. In early March 2011, Caswell was ordered by an Indiana court to pay fines and restitution of more than $343,000 to 43 writers.
New Century charged anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 to publish. However, it was one of those fee-based publishers that didn’t reveal its fees on its website, and many writers approached it in the belief that it was a “real” publisher. As if that weren’t bad enough, writers alleged that Caswell took their money and failed to produce books, or produced fewer books than promised and then failed to market them.
Although only $81,874 of the amount Caswell has been ordered to pay is restitution (the rest is fines), the judgment is a vindication for the victims named in the suit (there are doubtless many more). But writers may have to wait a while for their money. Amazingly, Caswell has been the focus of two previous suits by the Indiana Attorney General (for deceptive acts connected with his job placement businesses), which resulted in judgments of nearly $100,000…of which, according to state records, he has paid just $600 to date.
I blogged about Caswell and New Century in August 2010, with much more detail about his activities, his legal history, and the complaints Writer Beware received about the publisher.