Locksmith Sues Google in RICO Complaint
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - Google lets hundreds of Virginia unlicensed locksmiths advertise on its search engine, undercutting and harming licensed locksmiths, a company claims in a federal RICO lawsuit.
Baldino's Lock & Key Service sued Google, SuperMedia Sales, Yellowbook, Ziplocal LP and the unlicensed locksmiths using their services, alleging false advertising and racketeering.
"Google can independently determine, online and automatically, that it is engaged in publishing the names of illegally operating locksmiths," the complaint states. "As of the filing of this suit, there are 150 licensed locksmiths in the State of Maryland, yet Google is publishing over 400 names of purported locksmiths with ostensible locations in Virginia."
Baldino's claims that Google won't cleanse itself of the unlicensed locksmiths because of the revenue it makes selling Google Adwords.
"Google is aiding and abetting a fraud by also providing an enhanced platform far beyond the three line-listing submitted, now allowing pictures, reviews, and map locations with pinpoints, creating a picture of legitimacy for an illegal and fraudulent listing," Baldino's claims.
It adds: "Google has its own policy and procedure statements, which it is violating by not ridding itself of the illegal locksmiths' listing and advertisements.
"Google's actions and those of the other defendants are damaging to the general public as well. Locksmiths are licensed because they are engaged in security activities and deal with people who are placing in them trust and confidence for providing security services to them and their families. By knowingly aiding and abetting fraudulent locksmiths, Google's and the other defendants' activities impair the security and financial well-being of members of the public who deal with said locksmiths."
The unlicensed John Doe locksmith defendants are also reaping the benefits from their relationship with Google and the other ad directories "by illegally poaching market share from licensed locksmiths by using fraudulent listings published by the search engines and directories, which the search engines and directories continue to publish knowing that these John Does are in violation of state criminal laws," the complaint states.
Baldino's claims the ad listings violate federal racketeering laws. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial. It also wants a court order forcing the companies to remove the listings.
Baldino's is represented by Andrew Bisulca of Woodbridge, Va.