Press Release

Thursday, September 20, 2018

AG Swanson Stops Small Business Advertising Scam

Warns Small Businesses To Be On Guard Against Similar Scams Demanding Up-Front Payments For Placement in Supposed Advertising Books

Attorney General Lori Swanson has obtained a court order stopping Victor Wilcox—a repeat fraudster with a history of victimizing the public—from defrauding small businesses by charging up to $1,500 for bogus advertising services.

“This is the latest outfit we have seen solicit small business owners for payments to place ads in directories that are never published,” said Attorney General Swanson.

Swanson filed a lawsuit alleging that Wilcox—doing business as Concept Marketing Groups, Concept Publications Group, Creative Marketing Groups, and Creative Publications Group—solicited advance payments of up to $1,500 from small businesses, including hair dressers, auto mechanics, and building contractors, to purchase ad space in discount directories, pamphlets and restaurant check inserts, but frequently failed to produce the ads. Wilcox refused to provide refunds.

The lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County District Court. The Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order to halt Wilcox’s scam. The suit seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, and restitution.

Wilcox has a history of defrauding consumers. In 1999, the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against and got a settlement with Wilcox for fraudulently marketing credit cards. The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against him in 2000, and the United States Attorney’s Office charged in him in a 28 count criminal complaint in 2002 for defrauding credit card customers. Wilcox pled guilty to the federal felony of conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison in 2004.

Last year, the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against another company operating a similar scheme. That lawsuit alleged that Mike Gerkin, operating Dad’s Fundraising, got small businesses to pay for advertising services in coupon books, but failed to place the ads. A court order banned Gerkin from engaging in any advertising business in Minnesota and required full restitution to his victims. He was subsequently criminally charged in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Attorney General Swanson today issued an alert to Minnesota small businesses, entitled Small Business Advertising Scams, to warn them about such advertising scams.

People may report complaints to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office about Victor Wilcox, Concept Marketing Groups, Concept Publications Group, Creative Marketing Groups, or Creative Publications Group by calling (651) 296-3353 (within the Twin Cities metro area) or (800) 657-3787 (outside the Twin Cities), or by emailing attorney.general@ ag.state.mn.us. Individuals may also download a Complaint Form from the Attorney General’s Office website at www.ag.state.mn.us, and mail the completed form to the Attorney General’s Office at: 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101-2131.