Published June 11, 2007
PIERRE, S.D. -- The scam didn't seek much money, just $20 to $60 per business. But add it up nationally and the sum could reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The concept was simple: Send stern warnings to restaurants to trick them into thinking they must display posters on proper hand-washing techniques or face heavy fines, then sell them the posters.
The mailed solicitations came stamped with such official-sounding names as the Food Service Compliance Center and looked as if they might be from the government or a government-affiliated agency.
But the misleading sales pitches were from a Lansing, Mich., company called the Mandatory Poster Agency.
At least eight states have taken action against the company, forcing it to change its business practices and give refunds to businesses that were duped by the scheme.
"We had them fairly dead to rights, so to speak, in terms of misrepresentations," said Maryellen Mynear of the Kentucky attorney general's office, which sued the company.
The company insists it offers a valuable service by researching government regulations and providing the information to other businesses.