Behnah Ghobadi, president of Print Tech, a Burlington publishing firm has been printing books for customers across the United States for 34 years, but he says it was somebody in his own backyard that has given him his harshest business lesson.
Ghobadi said Monday he began printing books about 18 months ago for Peter Campbell-Copp of Manchester and his company Historical Pages. After some preliminary payments by Campbell-Copp, the checks stopped coming and the half-dozen titles sat mostly on the floor of Print Tech on Pine Street.
Now Hinesburg Community Police say more than a dozen people and businesses are out of at least $170,000 through unfulfilled contracts, including Ghobadi for about $100,000.
Campbell-Copp, 62, has been ordered to appear in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington on June 27 to face three felony counts of false pretenses and two misdemeanor counts of receiving value upon false statements, Hinesburg police said.
He also is facing single counts of false advertising and false statements as to financial ability, said Officer Chris Bataille, the lead investigator in the criminal case.
Another article, from the Manchester Journal, details some of the allegedly defrauded author’s stories. Reportedly, Campbell-Copp’s average publishing fee was $5,000, although some authors apparently paid more, and one allegedly paid $16,000.
Writer Beware never received any complaints about Campbell-Copp or Historical Pages, but the story, as detailed in the article, is a familiar one from dozens of other questionable publishers in our files: unfulfilled promises to authors, nonpayment to vendors (including printers and editors), unreturned phone calls and emails, and, when complainants managed to get through, a raft of excuses for nonperformance, ranging from health problems to claims of meetings with celebrities (including Ron Howard and the producers of Star Wars). Also familiar: the alleged Ponzi scheme aspect of the case, with Campbell-Copp signing on new authors in order to fund the work he’d promised to do on previous contracts.
A couple of sample complaints, along with a response from Campbell-Copp, can be seen in the comments thread of this blog post.
UPDATE, 6/20/13: Campbell-Copp pleaded guilty in April to 15 felony counts of false pretenses and theft of services, as well as four misdemeanor counts of bad checks. He was sentenced to six months of jail time followed by six months of house arrest, and will be on indefinite probation. A fund for restitution of Campbell-Copp’s victims has been established, but there are a number of conditions that must be satisfied before payments can be made. There’s more information here.
UPDATE 1/26/17: Campbell Copp wants to be able to publish his own deathless prose, and was in court January 25 to argue his case. The judge agreed he could self-publish, but not undertake any publishing for others or even serve as a co-author. So far, he has come up with a mere $55,000 of the $277,000 in restitution he was ordered to pay to defrauded authors.