Wed Oct 17, 2012, 09:41 PM
grantcart (41,111 posts)
Gravis - THE FIRST BOMBSHELL UNWINDING THE WEB OF ILLICIT ACTIVITES BY AMERICAS GREATEST POLLSTER
This post was written by a DUer who wishes to post it without being publicly credited for composing it and I post it for him.
It lays out a web of illicit activity that Doug Kaplan has been involved in and many of the known associates have been conducting over the last 10 years. They are the whack o moles of the "free trip to Florida scam". They have been cited repeatedly by the FCC, fined and sued by Disney. But they are resourceful. They continue to remorph into a new entity but the same characters are either directly involved or not far behind.
Remarkably you will find that we matched reports from RipOffReport from employees that also detail the illegal operations from the inside.
While reading through these reports yesterday I was interupted by a call to my wife's phone. It was an automatic dialer that had a 'series of poll questions' and that if I responded to their call then I would win a trip on a cruise in Florida. I couldn't believe it. It was from these guys. It was too late I had already pushed the hang up button.
You will see that some states have taken actions against these guys but there are probably many Attorney Generals that have gotten calls but never been able to put the dots together. Not sure how happy some of the associates are going to be when they see that Doug is bringing all of this attention to them.
Please take your time and go through this incredible post carefully the writer asks that if you really appreciate the work to drop off a can of food the next time you go to the food bank as a sign of appreciation.
Now for one of the most interesting posts ever to appear on DU:>
When considering the legitimacy of Douglas Kaplan's latest business venture, Gravis Media, it's important to understand the history and context of his previous endeavors. In the following pages I will attempt to build this context to show that Mr. Kaplan's name is synonymous with a string of fly-by-night telemarketing scams operating out of strip malls and post office boxes in central Florida since the early 2000s and, if Gravis Marketing is a legitimate business, it may well be the first one associated with Mr. Kaplan.
This is Douglas Kaplan's work history before Gravis, according to his Linkedin profile (http://www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskaplan):
January 2005 – March 2009 (4 years 3 months) Winter Springs, Florida
Director Of Sales
February 2001 – December 2004 (3 years 11 months)
I'll examine each of these companies in detail, beginning with Florida Reservations. As others have pointed out independently, Florida Reservations became known when Steve Kirsch's ( founder of Infoseek, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Kirsch) junkfax.org website demonstrated that Florida Reservations were distributing junk faxes with fax.com's database of number which Douglas Kaplan "illegally obtained". (http://www.junkfax.org/fax/profiles/faxcom.htm)
Junkfax.org goes on to state (http://www.junkfax.org/fax/profiles/FloridaReservations.htm) that "Doug Kaplan purchased fax.com's number database from a former fax.com employee and is sending out their travel faxes using this database."
Here's an example of their handiwork: http://www.junkfax.org/fax/broadcasters/floridaReservations/floridaReservations.pdf
and what the FCC thought of it:
" It has come to our attention that you or your company sent
one or more unsolicited advertisements to a telephone facsimile
machine(s). These advertisements apparently were transmitted on
your behalf by Fax.com. On August 7, 2002, this Commission
issued the enclosed Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture
(NAL) finding that Fax.com is apparently liable for a forfeiture
of $5,412,000 for sending unsolicited fax advertisements on
behalf of numerous business entities, including yours."
Now it's clear that Florida Reservations were violating the existing laws governing unsolicited fax transmissions and if that were all they were doing it might be forgivable, but Florida Reservations proves to be an incredibly sketchy company so it becomes necessary to look into who, exactly, was Florida Reservations.
"Doug Kaplan aka Douglas Joseph Kaplan of Oviedo, FL (age 26) is listed on the DNS registration for floridareservation.net. Doug is famous for Vacation Showroom
Lance Sawyer, Doug's partner (see Rip Off ReportVacation Showroom, direct Reservations, vacation 123,wcc Travel, wholesale Connection Company ripoff Maitland Florida)
Jason Giza aka Jason A Giza (age 26) (has been doing this since 1999; Richard Z. has details)
Jacob R Wood (age 27) (business partner of Jason Giza)
Anthony Alfred Arrigoni aka Tony Arrigoni (partner of Giza; also well known in the travel business)".
Kaplan was deeply involved with Vacation Showroom and and, to get a picture of exactly what Vacation Showroom was like we can read a former employee's testimonial from ripoffreports.com (http://www.ripoffreport.com/telemarketers/vacation-showroom/vacation-showroom-telemarketin-43249.htm):
"I worked for that terrible company for 6 awful months! I don't know who Jacob Wood is... although I'm sure he's just another name that only exists on paper.
The owners name is Doug Kapplin. He's a short, dorky, blond man. 2nd in charge is Allen... I can't remeber his last name but it starts with a G and is very Italian sounding.
They have many fake owner and manager names. Ray Burke is fake, and I'm fairly certan Debra Walters isn't real either.
What they do is ask you if you've purchased a package, and if you say yes, they make up an excuse on why you can't get to Customer Service right then. They'll do this untill your 30 day cancel period by law is up. Then tell you your too late. Say no and they'll put you through to the sales floor.
They move every few months. Always the same owner."
And who is the Alan G that the commenter can't remember? That's Alan Giardinieri. Who is Alan Giardinieri? He is, according to his Linkedin page (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/alan-giardinieri/33/a12/a2) "Senior Account Executive at Gravis Marketing" . So it appears that Douglas kept his old friend from the fax scam business on the payroll.
<grantcart comment -- Please remember the name Alan Giardineiri. We will learn more about Giardinieri's criminalproblems in a separate thread>
Kaplan is associated with any number of similarly named travel and telecom outfits during the last dozen years. A quick search will return any number of complains that mention him specifically and tie him to such companies as Wholesale Connection Company, Florida Reservations, and Vacation Showroom as well as US Travel Services, Omega Marketing of Orlando, Discovery Marketing, and Consumer Magic Travel as listed in this notice from the FCC that directly targets Mr. Kaplan:
In February of 2002 the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan issues an alert over the actions of these companies (http://westernmichigan.bbb.org/article/consumer-alert--vacation-scam-hits-west-michigan-newspapers-1673):
" The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan reports that the "Hawthorne Family" discounted vacation scam offer has appeared in numerous west Michigan newspapers in the past two weeks. The BBB reports that the offer reads:
"Disney Area - 7 day, 6 night hotel stay, paid $600
sell for $199 and (local phone number)"
Upon calling each "local" phone number, the BBB-WMI found out the message said, "You have reached the Hawthorne residence and we (the Hawthorne's) are in the process of moving and if you are calling about the Orlando vacation, contact the agency in Orlando who is handling this for us and tell them you are calling about the Hawthorne offer.""
and further the BBB traced these spurious advertisements to the following companies that all appeared to be doing business as a single entity. " The Hawthorne family offer is linked to the following Florida based company dba's involved with the supposed discounted offer.
Florida Reservations, Inc. (F.R.I.)
Resort Exchange International of America (R.E.I.A.)
Great Escape Marketing, Inc.
North America Resort Vacation Club
Corporate Travel Division
Orlando Resort or Orlando Vacation Reservation Center
Note Resort Exchange International of America (R.E.I.A.). In August of 2001 the FTC levied a $4 million dollar judgment against REIA for having(http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2001/08/reia.shtm):
"deceived consumers throughout the United States by deceptively marketing travel packages. Using in-house sales personnel and a number of third-party boiler rooms throughout Florida, the FTC contends, REIA contacted consumers by sending unsolicited faxes to their workplace promoting travel packages at a deeply discounted rate. The faxes, which were addressed to "All Current Employees," typically said that the "wholesale travel department" was releasing reduced-price, corporate closeout discount vacations.
In many cases, consumers who received the faxes at work believed either that they were sent from the travel division of their company or were approved or sponsored by their employer, the FTC alleged. The packages promoted typically included a number of nights in destinations such as Orlando, Cancun and Hawaii, as well as a "complimentary" Carnival Line cruise. Customers were invited to call a toll-free line to purchase the vacations for $349 per person. When they called the number, they were told that REIA would charge them an additional $149 per person to book each package. "
Who ran REIA? Mr. Kaplan's associate from Florida Reservations Anthony Alfred Arrigoni. (http://www.ftc.gov/os/2001/08/reiastip.htm) This directly ties Douglas Kaplan, through his capacity as Director of Sales at Florida Reservations, to a company that was fined $4 million dollars by the FTC.
As for the other company that Mr. Kaplan lists on his resume, Elite Options. Who is "Elite Options"? None other than Jacob R. Wood from Florida Reservations.
Here's a bit of his recent work: http://pjandfriends.com/consumerwarnings/PressReleasePjandfriendstaleopbh100810a.pdf
Elite Options was recently banned from doing business in North Dakota:
Key quote: "Jacob R. Wood, individually, and his company Elite Options, Inc. of Winter Haven, Florida doing business as United Public Opinion Group, were accused of violating North Dakota's prohibition on prerecorded telephone calls, purportedly offering a cruise with Regal Empress Cruise Vacations. The company claims to conduct surveys and polls; but, uses the consumer information gathered to generate leads, which it then sells to time-share companies. Wood agreed to a permanent ban on doing business in North Dakota and paid $2,000 in lieu of civil penalties."
Furthermore the websites www.surveycruise.com and surveyclaim.com are both "Elite Options". They Surveyclaims.com was hidden by a domain registration proxy but he had to defend the domain claims here: http://domains.adrforum.com/domains/decisions/1400516.htm
And from that we get this note:
"Respondent, Elite Options Inc, registered the <surveyclaim.com> and <surveyresearchcenter.com> domain names no earlier than January 24, 2007. The <surveyclaim.com> domain name resolves to a website that appears to be associated with Complainant, but actually acts as a phishing website."
Here's an archive.org snapshot of www.surveyclaim.com from October 16th, 2008 during Kaplan's time as Marketing Manager at Elite Options: http://web.archive.org/web/20081016042611/http://www.surveyclaim.com/
The LA Times did a short piece on this particular incarnation of what I call "The Great Florida Travel Scam" and noted that while " Variations on the bogus-vacation scam have been around for years, but this latest version takes it to a whole new level of sneakiness." by asking all kinds of seemingly unrelated questions like " What's my gender? What's my age group? Do I speak Spanish? Is anyone in my household a diabetic? Am I a homeowner? Do I use a credit card when I make purchases? What kind of TV service do I have? Do I have health insurance? What's my educational background? Do I have a septic tank or a sewer system?"
So now we see the scam evolve from faxes to cell phones to online surveys and, possibly, option polling.
Is there a smoking gun? Not really. There is no one document that spells out that Gravis Marketing is just another evolutionary step in a long line of specious telephony scams dating back a dozen years, but there is enough history and context here to toss up a big red flag about taking this company seriously.
Does the New York Times and RCP begin to understand who the hell they have given their platform to, as "America's Greatest Pollster"?
These are the very complicated con operations that Douglas Kaplan and his known associates have been doing, sometimes caught and sometimes one step ahead of the law.
They are not however his or their only appearences as a criminal defendent in the state of Florida.
That will come in another thread.
Let me say that new DU member clownseven was instrumental in both gathering much of this information and making it sensible to the group.
More serious shit is on the way. They may have gotten around the FCC. They may have gotten around the States Attorney Generals.
They may have fooled the New York Times and Real Clear Politics.
But they didn't pass the bullshit monitor at DU.
end of grantcart comments>
43 replies, 8225 views
Gravis - THE FIRST BOMBSHELL UNWINDING THE WEB OF ILLICIT ACTIVITES BY AMERICAS GREATEST POLLSTER (Original post)
|Horse with no Name||Oct 2012||#17|
|Blue Owl||Oct 2012||#19|
|Michigan Alum||Oct 2012||#20|
|K Gardner||Oct 2012||#29|
|K Gardner||Oct 2012||#36|
Response to leveymg (Reply #1)
Thu Oct 18, 2012, 12:03 AM
Horse with no Name (31,416 posts)
17. There was so much information here in 2004
that was so pertinent and very astute journalism. Wasn't it awesome? I don't remember names but I certainly remember the research they did and it was rock solid. This is fascinating stuff!
Response to grantcart (Original post)
Wed Oct 17, 2012, 10:29 PM
lonestarnot (74,971 posts)
5. Rough Ro! Now they done it!
When something sounds to good to be good to be true, it IS to be good to be true! What people fall for their shit?
Response to grantcart (Reply #10)
Wed Oct 17, 2012, 11:44 PM
Lone_Star_Dem (28,158 posts)
14. This is the second teaser tonight!
Damn, DUers know how to keep us coming back!
You've all been doing an amazing job in this. Keep up the good work!
Response to Lone_Star_Dem (Reply #14)
Wed Oct 17, 2012, 11:54 PM
grantcart (41,111 posts)
16. Its been delayed. We got another dump of information
that fit in with the big bomb that's coming.
Too much shit. We have to cut it off and have another bombshell tomorrow.
Response to grantcart (Original post)
Wed Oct 17, 2012, 11:45 PM
Panasonic (2,921 posts)
15. You have to notify Alan Grayson - he's using Gravis for his polling.
He needs to make sure that the numbers aren't fudging even though Grayson is ahead by 15.
Response to grantcart (Original post)
Thu Oct 18, 2012, 12:52 AM
Michigan Alum (335 posts)
20. I was on rcp, they asked me to answer a survey and I told them that the needed to stop using Gravis.
I told rcp that they were involved in a scandal and that their poll numbers were "way off" the rest of the polls. I was also tempted to say the same about Rasmussen, Gallup and Fox but since Gravis is the worst, I mentioned them. I figured they wouldn't put much credence if I mentioned all those polls.