Home » In the news » Firm named in scam in trouble nationwide

Firm named in scam in trouble nationwide

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Boston Globe, December 28, 2006, Globe West, page 1

By Alison O’Leary Murray, Globe Correspondent | December 28, 2006

A California company that allegedly bilked a Franklin school a year ago in a gift card scam is facing complaints from around the nation.

Nearly 500 organizations in at least 48 states have cried foul over the actions of Fresno-based Scrip Advantage Inc., said John Savrnoch, an assistant district attorney in Fresno County.

“We’re still logging complaints,” he said. “Only a small number of them have sued because most of the entities didn’t lose that much money, and it would be too expensive for them to prosecute their claim.”

No one answered the telephone at Scrip Advantage’s offices recently. A telephone message referred people to the company’s website, where a February posting said the company was “committed to our priority of returning as much value to our creditors as possible.”

Franklin attorney Jeffrey Roy had hoped to be in Wrentham District Court earlier month to begin trying a lawsuit against Scrip Advantage. But the trial has been put off to March.

In the suit, the Parent Communication Council at Franklin’s Horace Mann School claims that Scrip Advantage never delivered nearly $4,000 in store gift cards just before the holidays last year.

Franklin’s independent Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter School also paid for gift cards that were never received but has not decided whether to sue, Roy said.
In a fund-raising tactic used by many schools, the parent council took orders from parents and other supporters and ordered gift cards from the company. The company was supposed to deliver the gift cards, along with a small percentage of the sales, to the council. Roy said the company didn’t fulfill its end of the deal.

Jeanne Scoba, Horace Mann’s Parent Communication Council chairwoman at the time, said she was shocked. “I thought, good Lord, how could somebody do this? I didn’t think anyone would stick it to a school or a church,” she said in a telephone interview.

The organization dipped into its reserves to repay parents whose orders were unfilled and didn’t have to cancel any planned programs at the school due to the loss, she said.
Roy, who is chairman of the Franklin School Committee as well as a lawyer, said the company knew it was in trouble financially before it took the school’s money.

He’s charging the company with fraud as a result, which could multiply the school’s award if Franklin prevails in court.

Roy is working pro bono on the case but will collect attorney fees if the school wins the case.

Scoba said she is confident that Horace Mann’s council will get its money back. “I told the principal, ‘I’m going to come back with a check for you,’ ” she said. “I feel it in my bones.”

Alison O’Leary Murray may be reached at amurray@globe.com.

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