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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Learns the Perils of Internet Research

LOS ANGELES (CN) - An Alaskan real estate developer claims he lost $525,000 to a company he found by "searching the Internet" for "how best to protect one's assets". He claims Incway, Companies Inc., and their associates persuaded him to put the money into an offshore account at an unregulated credit union, and now company employees tell him they have been ordered "not to discuss anything with plaintiff."

Thomas Alexander sued Companies Incorporated (CI), its affiliates Incway Corp. and Presidential Services Inc., CI president Kevin Wessell and CI employees Casey Lawrence and Matt Mitchell, in Federal Court.

Alexander says that in 2008, concerned about the financial crisis, he "was searching the Internet for resources advertising how best to protect one's assets when he came upon the website of defendant CI, which represented, among other things, the following positive factors concerning its business:

"(a) That since 1977, CI 'and its family of companies have served thousands of business people, attorneys, accountants, physicians, and others.'

"(b) That CI 'is committed to the bedrock values of Honesty, Value, Service and Customer Satisfaction.'"

And so on.

Alexander says: "The representations above prompted plaintiff to contact defendant CI by telephone. On advising the CI representative that he was interested in setting up an offshore bank account, he was transferred to defendant Wessell, and at a later time was introduced to defendant Mitchell and then to defendant Lawrence. Based upon his exchange of emails with Wessell, Lawrence and Mitchell, plaintiff was led to believe that CI had its own 'banking department,' thereby giving the impression that defendant CI was a large, multi-department corporate entity with numerous offices and employees. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that defendant CI is, in fact, a small corporate entity working out of one office in Valencia, California, with a small number of employees."

Alexander says Wessell and his associates operated CI and all its alter egos out of the California office.

The complaint states: "In or about June 2008, plaintiff had several telephone conversations with defendants Lawrence and Mitchell, in which he explained that he was considering the feasibility of depositing funds in an offshore bank account to protect his assets, and that the safety of his funds was of paramount importance to him. In response, both defendants Lawrence and Mitchell represented that this could best be accomplished by setting up an offshore bank account that would be controlled by a limited liability company ('LLC') to be set up and organized under the laws of Nevis, an island in the Caribbean.

"When plaintiff specifically enquired whether his funds would be deposited in a Swiss bank, Lawrence represented that 'Swiss banks are not as good as Swedish banks,' that 'the Swedish banking system is one of the most stable and strongest anywhere in the world,' that Swedish banks are subject to strong banking regulations, and that 'lots of our clients bank there with great success.'"

Alexander says the defendants recommended a Swedish bank called "The Alps" and offered to help him set up a company in Nevis and the bank account with The Alps.


"In or about November 2008, plaintiff received a package in the mail from defendant CI, containing an 'Exclusive Gold Seal, Self Contained Company Kit ("company kit")' which contained, inter alia, a set of directions on 'how to use your limited liability kit,' and congratulated plaintiff on being 'now the owner of a limited liability company,'" according to the complaint.

"In addition to containing an explanation of how to use the company kit, the package contained a certificate from the Office of the Registrar of Companies of the Island of Nevis, certifying that on Nov. 4, 2008, a company called 'Cold Play Ventures, LLC' had been organized as plaintiff's LLC. The company kit also contained sample forms, including forms for banking and business references, and also advised plaintiff 'how to get all of the benefits you anticipated' and told plaintiff:

"'(a) Congratulations. Your Limited Liability Company is a powerful entity, which can provide complete asset protections, substantial tax savings and financial privacy. ...'

"'(b) You now have a vast array of proven tools, systems and strategies at your disposal to help you keep what you earn, protect what you accumulate, and lawfully remove your financial affairs from the fish bowl of mandatory reporting. You're positioned to orchestrate your affairs into a symphony of your own choosing.'

"Because of the positive nature of the foregoing assurances that defendant CI provided to plaintiff including its written materials, and the prompt manner in which plaintiff's 'limited liability company' had been set up, plaintiff believed that defendant CI was a reliable entity, and that the representations by defendants Wessell, Lawrence and Mitchell that the LLC would be a vehicle consistent with plaintiff's stated needs were true."

So at the defendants' direction, Alexander says, he wired $524,785 to a Swiss bank with offices in New York, to be transferred to The Alps in Sweden.

And that, apparently, was that.

After sending the money, Alexander says, he repeatedly tried to contact The Alps, without success.

"Since July 2011, plaintiff has made several attempts to contact The Alps and speak with a representative concerning his funds. He also sent emails to The Alps but has never received a response," the complaint states.

Alexander says he finally reached a CI customer representative, who told him he "had been instructed not to speak with plaintiff."

Alexander says The Alps is not a bank, but a credit union not subject to any Swedish banking regulations.

He says The Alps has never had any employees, nor a physical address, is not a registered taxpayer in Sweden and "conducted no actual business, other than to collect funds from unsuspecting depositors."

And he says Wessell failed to tell him that he, Wessell, is the former CEO of The Alps.

According to its website: "The Alps Credit Union Ekonomisk förening is a Credit Union registered by the Swedish government as an economic association. The Credit Union was granted an official charter by The Swedish Companies Registration Office. ...

"The Alps Credit Union is available to a select group of clients including in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific Region, South Asia, Australia, South America, The Middle East, Africa, and the United Kingdom as allowed by Swedish law.

"As one of the world's most internationally available credit unions, The Alps Credit Union employs leading-edge technology so it is accessible in the far-reaches of the globe. The Alps Credit Union represents a worldwide range of nationalities. This diversity lies at the heart of the institution's values and supports the Credit Union's growth as the world increasingly becomes one market."

The Alps is not named as a defendant.

Alexander wants his money back, and punitive damages for misrepresentation, suppression of facts and RICO violations.

He is represented by Anthony Gordon of Woodland Hills.

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