When I first learned about Wizy-Wiz eCommerce and its many past lives, I drew comparisons to the Wizard of Oz who hid behind lies until Dorothy lifted the curtain. A co-worker said the name Wizy-Wiz makes him think about urination – and maybe that’s a fitting descriptor too because the Washington men behind the company certainly managed to p--- off a lot of customers.
Enter Jeremy Avey, Alexander Martin and Brent Stanphill. Since starting their operation in 2005, the defendants have used at least eight business names and various locations in the Seattle and Eastside areas. They operated Cybercom Technologies, which did business in Bothell as Wizy-Wiz eCommerce; TNT Cart, which also operated under the name Strada Technologies in Kirkland and Seattle; and White Crane Technologies, which operated in Redmond. Their most recent reincarnation is ABC eCommerce.
Their M.O.? Selling search-engine optimization and shopping cart integration services to home-based business owners who lack the tech skills to set up sophisticated Web sites. Then disconnecting the phone when the complaints start rolling in.
Documents filed by the state describe how the defendants played one small business owner who paid White Crane Technologies $8,700 in 2006 to provide a Web site and hosting services. When the Indiana woman called to inquire why the work wasn’t completed, she received a recording that the phone number wasn’t in service. A few months later, she received a call from TNT Cart, offering to rebuild her Web site. Unaware that the TNT Cart was essentially the same business that had taken her money earlier, she paid $2,800.
In her complaint to the Attorney General’ Office, the Indiana woman wrote:
“I also told him my sister and I had been ripped off by a company called White Crane in 2006 and we could not afford for this to happen again. He said that he had heard of them, but his company was not like them. I then explained to him that I could not work outside of my home because of a car accident and only have a small income from Social Security and that I could not afford it. He came back with he was in an car accident and lost both legs and if it wasn't for TNT CART giving him a job, he would be were I was. Then he asked me to hold on while he rolled over in his wheelchair to talk to his boss about what they could do for me.”
A defense attorney later said the caller was not in wheelchair.
Again, the Indiana woman’s Web site wasn’t completed. Finally, she was contacted in 2010 by Wizy-Wiz, offering to make her Web site operational for “no charge.” But no work was done.
On Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector granted the state’s motion for summary judgment following oral arguments – finding that their practices violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act and Commercial Telephone Solicitation Act.
“The defendants made their living by taking thousands of dollars from small businesses, promising services they couldn’t deliver, then closing shop as soon as customer complaints rolled in,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said today. “Thanks to the excellent work of Senior Counsel Paula Selis and our Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit, these operators must cease their deceptive practices and pay back everyone they cheated.”
Avey, Martin and Stanphill can still do business -- as long as they don't break any laws. Failure to comply with the term of the judge's order would trigger additional civil penalties up to $25,000 per violation.