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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Think Twice About That Community Service

SEATTLE (CN) - Two men run companies that charge people to discharge court-ordered community service, but fail to tell customers that many courts will not accept their services, Washington's attorney general claims in court.

Defendants Community Service Help and its partner company, Terra Research Foundation, claim their community service hours are "Court Approved: Accepted Everywhere," though they are rejected by many state courts, Washington says in its Feb. 9 complaint in King County Court.

Named as defendants are Community Service Help, Inc. dba Education Services, Correction Services, Victim Impact Panel and Criminal Marketplace; Adam Young; Scott Young; and Terra Research Foundation.

The companies charge $49.95 for viewing an online impact panel, which courts may order after a DUI conviction, and up to $499 for a course that allegedly fulfills community service requirements, according to the complaint.

"CHS also utilizes a promotional video located in the center of the website's landing page for advertising purposes. This video automatically plays when the landing page fully loads and repeatedly extols the program's acceptance. Primarily, the video displays an image with the words 'Court Approved: Accepted Everywhere' while the narrator proclaims, 'We have never had a completion letter rejected!'" the attorney general says.

But that's not true, the state says: "Contrary to CSH's representations, numerous courts and law enforcement officials have questioned the representations on CSH's website about court approval."

The District and Municipal Court Judges Association's Board said Washington officials "should not accept online community service hours or those that you can 'buy,'" the attorney general says.

Also, the state claims, the CSH website says the Better Business Bureau gave it an A+ rating, though it actually received an F.

"The BBB's profile on CSH also contains an alert," the attorney general says. "The alert states that CSH never responded to BBB's request for CSH to substantiate its claims and provide supporting documentation for each city, county, and state court that has approved CSH's program, as claimed by CSH; and also to revise its advertising to prevent confusion regarding court approval."

The state claims that Terra Research misrepresents itself as a nonprofit and that Terra and CSH falsely claim the online impact panel meets Washington's requirements that panels verify that the attendee is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The defendant companies are based in Michigan, where Adam Scott lives. Scott Young lives in California.

The state wants a permanent injunction and civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.

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