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State sues over alleged scam targeting African American churches

March 1, 2011 | 10:36 am

State prosecutors have filed suit against four companies and four people they say defrauded dozens of African American churches in Southern California in a nationwide computer-leasing scam.

Click to read the complaint California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office is accusing two Maryland companies, Television Broadcasting Online Ltd. and Urban Interfaith Network Inc., of violating California's unfair-competition and false-advertising laws and seeks $800,000 in penalties, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

DOCUMENT: Read the complaint

Prosecutors said company representatives Wayne and Tanya Wilson, of Rancho Cucamonga, were part of a nationwide scheme to persuade 195 African American churches in 15 different states to enter into expensive, complicated leases for computer kiosks the companies promised would not put churches under financial obligation.

According to the lawsuit, the victims included 33 churches in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which were told that the kiosks would link them to "national advertisers, government, businesses and even generate some revenue for themselves."

Balboa Capital Corp., based in Irvine, and United Leasing Associates of America, of Wisconsin, which also are named in the suit, filed collections suits against the churches when they failed to make monthly lease payments.

Also named in the suit are Willie Perkins and Michael Morris, of Maryland, who officials said are both serving prison time in connection with the scheme.

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-- Tony Barboza

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