|NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has obtained a $46,384.20 final judgment against William Loiry, a Florida resident who, under an assumed business name, made false promises and misrepresentations to promote a “Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit” that was to have taken place on December 17, 2012, in Trenton.
The event was canceled, however, under a December 10, 2012 court order that resulted from the lawsuit filed by the Division of Law on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs. The Final Judgment and Order, announced today, concludes that lawsuit with Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Moore’s finding that Loiry’s actions constituted multiple violations of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations.
Under the Final Judgment and Order, Loiry is ordered to pay the State $46,384.20, of which $12,500 represents restitution for the “Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit” registration and/or sponsorship fees paid by approximately 55 New Jersey consumers.
“On the very same day that Superstorm Sandy struck, this Florida resident launched a scheme to profit from the aftermath here in New Jersey,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “He sent 70,000 emails urging the recipients to attend a ‘Summit’ at which top government leaders supposedly would inform the public about relief and rebuilding opportunities. He created a website bearing the Presidential Seal and language conveying the false impression that the ‘Summit’ was affiliated with government. Our swift action put a stop to this false and misleading advertising, and has now resulted in a judge’s order that he pay restitution to those New Jersey consumers who registered to attend.”
Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said, “Beginning immediately upon Sandy’s landfall in New Jersey, the Division of Consumer Affairs has taken aggressive action to protect New Jersey consumers from post-disaster fraud in its many forms, including price gouging and misleading solicitations for charity. We will not tolerate those who attempt to line their pockets with profits from the misfortune of others.”
As set forth in the Division’s Complaint, filed on December 7, 2012, by the Division of Law:
Loiry, of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, registered a Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit website at www.sandyreconstruction.org on October 29, 2012 – the same day Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. The website featured the Seal of the President of the United States as well as a quote from President Barack Obama stating, “We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete.” The website promised an “all-day regional and national conference” at which consumers would “get the latest information … from top leaders” on relief operations, emergency housing, priorities for new construction of homes and infrastructure, and financing opportunities.
The website solicited registration fees of $175 to $275 per person to attend the Superstorm Sandy Reconstruction Summit, and $1,000 for corporate entities to sponsor the event.
Loiry also promoted the event and solicited attendance by sending approximately 70,000 emails to individuals, businesses, and government officials, promising that the event “will feature local, state, and national government, business, and nonprofit decision-makers providing the latest information on relief, restoration, and reconstruction.”
Loiry identified himself as the Chairman of the “United States Leadership Forum” and sent invitation emails from “NY/NJ Reconstruction Leadership” – purported organizations of which Loiry himself appears to have been the sole employee or member. Neither organization name is registered to do business in New Jersey.
An investigation by the Division of Consumer Affairs revealed that, despite the promises and representations made in Loiry’s website and emails, no government officials had actually planned to attend or speak at the summit.
The Final Judgment and Order requires Loiry to pay $46,384.20, of which the Division will distribute $12,500 as consumer restitution. Of the rest, $10,000 represents civil penalties and $23,884.20 will reimburse the State’s attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.
Deputy Attorney General Glenn T. Graham of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section represented the State in this action.
Lead Investigator Aziza Salikhov in the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
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 online or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.