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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Sues ‘Raiders of the Lost Reputation’

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (CN) - A biblical scholar sued a background check service, claiming it falsely identified him as a convicted sex offender and charges him $29 a month for a fraudulent, defamatory "service" he never ordered and doesn't want.

Joe Zias sued InstantCheckmate, for himself and a proposed class, in Santa Cruz County Court.

Zias claims he responded to California-based InstantCheckmate's offer to pay a one-time fee of $1, through his credit card, to do a background check on himself. But "to his shock and horror," InstantCheckmate described him "as a convicted sexual offender."

The lawsuit continues: "To add insult to injury, defendant InstantCheckmate then harvested month-after-month of 'automatic' $29.63 fees from plaintiff's credit card despite representations that such charges could be averted upon request - which request had been duly made, but ignored."

Zias claims he was suckered by the defendant's "relentless onslaught of email spam - sent as a daily barrage to millions around the worldwide web."

Zias describes himself in the lawsuit as "a prominent scholar of the Ancient Near-East, biblical history, active in on-site digs and rigorous in his pursuit of the preservation of important scientific and historically significant artifacts."

He says he spent 25 years working as a curator of archeology and anthropology with the State of Israel and was responsible for artifacts that included the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In another example of "shock and horror," Zias says in the complaint, "in place of a photo of himself on defendant InstantCheckmate's online database was a scientific photo of an ancient skeleton that Zias had published in a scientific journal."

Zias thought the photo had been hacked onto the site by one of his "disparagers" in the movie industry, who allegedly prefer box office receipts involving ancient artifacts to scholarly descriptions of them.

He says he called InstantCheckmate, which told him that "photos on the InstantCheckmate website are taken from public records and reserved exclusively for convicted sexual offenders; therefore, plaintiff Joe Zias was being portrayed throughout the entire worldwide web (including in Santa Cruz County) as a convicted sexual offender!"

It's not so, he says: "Joe Zias is not a convicted sexual offender. Joe Zias is a happily married family man (husband and father) and a Middle-Eastern and biblical scholar."

Upon his demand that InstantCheckmate reveal the source of the "outrageous falsehood," he claims, InstantCheckmate "began a campaign of denial, (including within the County of Santa Cruz) while falsely asserting the above-described events never took place."

Zias claims the company runs a fraud, that "InstantCheckmate's business plan is to acquire credit card information through a relentless campaign of spam email solicitations and while representing database services are available for only one week's payment ($1.00), in fact, defendant InstantCheckmate secretly plans and does charge month-to-month ($29.63) continuously until contacted to cease and desist."

He seeks individual and class damages, and punitive damages, for defamation, fraud, negligence, breach of faith and violations of the Business & Professions Code.

He is represented by Donald Charles Schwartz, of Aptos.

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