Nonprofit pursuing RICO claim, plans on seeking treble damages over bank account withdrawals

By Greg Travis | Jan 12, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Attorneys for Inn Dwellers Inc. intend to seek treble penalties in a lawsuit brought against a consortium of Pennsylvania radio stations, media corporations and consulting firms. 

The complaint, filed on Nov. 5, alleges that Women's Radio Network, NYC Radio, PR Global News, MBAS Consulting Group and WBG Consulting, along with a host of John Does, appropriated more than $326,000 in unauthorized withdrawals, charges and other fees from Inn Dweller bank accounts between October 2014 and April 2015.

If substantiated, the charges constitute violations under numerous state and federal statutes including the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“We have brought a RICO claim, [and] if the evidence allows to us prove that claim, we will seek treble damages as we have demanded in the complaint," Robert E. Fay, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, LLP, recently told the Pennsylvania Record.

Enacted under the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, RICO is a federal law that allows for extended criminal penalties for actions conducted as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

In this case, attorneys at Pepper Hamilton who are representing Inn Dwellers are seeking what is referred to as ‘treble’ damages, a provision under the law that could entitle plaintiffs up to three times the amount of damages stated in the original complaint.

Inn Dwellers is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to assisting poor families in the Germantown area and other northeast sections of Philadelphia. It coordinates education, housing and career development programs aimed to assist disadvantaged residents in the area. Its stated mission is to help needy individuals “achieve goals such as self-sufficiency, social responsibility and upward mobility."

Court briefs state that Inn Dwellers was approached by WRN on numerous occasions between July 2014 and April 2015 with requests for story interviews as well as subsequent requests to run advertisements on the online radio station. The unauthorized withdrawals allegedly began in the fall of 2014.

Inn Dwellers' leadership team insists that it never provided any bank account or credit card numbers to the defendants. How they were able to obtain this information remains unclear.

When Fay was asked if he had heard of others who had funds appropriated from their bank accounts by the defendants, or if he had any theories about how the defendants acquired the bank account numbers, he declined further comment on the grounds that the case was still in litigation.

If the court rules in Inn Dwellers' favor, the organization stands to collect more than $1 million in a compensation package for punitive damages and incurred legal fees.

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