Atlanta Journal Constitution: 3 Floridians Charged In Alleged $425 Million ‘Yellow Pages’ Directory Scam; Separate Research Shows Brother Of 1 Of The Defendants Is International Fugitive


The Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Florida Times Union are reporting that three Jacksonville-area residents have been charged in an alleged $425 million fraud scheme involving mass solicitations for the renewal of dubious “Yellow Pages” listings.

Separately, the brother of one of the defendants is listed as an international fugitive by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in his own alleged Yellow Pages scheme.

Charged in federal court in Atlanta were Mark Stuart Smith, Christopher Jon Gregory and Marian Phelan. The defendants were associated with a company known as United Directories, the newspapers reported.

Smith’s brother, Charles Smith, was indicted last year in Atlanta on similar charges, the Times Union reported. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has published a “Wanted” poster on Charles Smith, whose full name is Charles Robert Smith. Charles Smith also uses the alias of  Joseph Austin Smith, according to the USPIS.

Charles Smith, according to the USPIS, is believed to have passports and Florida driver’s licenses in both names. He is described as an international fugitive possibly living in Tanzania, and is believed to travel extensively in Europe and Africa.

Postal inspectors and state attorneys general have battled several variants of Yellow Pages scams over the years. Charles Smith, according to records, has been implicated in such scams for at least two decades.

The Federal Trade Commission, among other agencies, has issued warnings about Yellow Pages scams. So has the state of North Dakota.

Selling “Yellow Pages” listings on the Internet to create the impression that customers have purchased an ad in well-known, local print publications is one variant of the scam.

Another variant is to send businesses a bogus bill for “Yellow Pages” listings. Because firms frequently purchase such listings and associate the “walking fingers” logo with legitimate print and online publishers, they often pay the bill without looking.

Yet another variant of the scam is to send what appears to be a small “refund” check to businesses for overpayment of a “Yellow Pages” bill. When recipients endorse the checks, they actually are entering into a contract and agreeing to be automatically billed for advertising purchases.

On May 26, 2009, the PP Blog reported that the AdViewGlobal (AVG) autosurf, which had close ties to the alleged AdSurfDaily Ponzi scheme operated from Florida, appeared to be in the process of launching a purported Yellow Pages directory service. Whether AVG planned to offer the purported service independently or through a partnership with a vendor was unclear.

With great fanfare in May 2009, AVG announced that it was launching a new website and offering a new suite of purported services. The launch ultimately failed — but not before AVG had published a “walking fingers” logo to which the acronym “AVGA” had been added.

Read the early story on the charges against Mark Stuart Smith, Christopher Jon Gregory and Marian Phelan in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Read the story in the Florida Times Union.

Visit the USPIS website to view the “Wanted” poster of Charles Robert Smith.

Search for “Smith” in this USPIS document to get additional background.

In the alleged Charles Smith scheme, “More than 10,000 victims lost an estimated $10 million,” USPIS said. Some of the money allegedly ended up in a Swiss bank account.

During the course of the Charles Smith probe, “[i]nspectors and agents also found documents indicating that Charles Robert Smith was trying to liquidate funds in a brokerage account and several other bank accounts by purchasing one-ounce gold coins from dealers across the United States,” USPIS said.

“Charles Smith had also recently placed a $42,000 deposit on a $1.2 million jet from Epic Air in Las Vegas, Nevada. Inspectors used information from the documents to obtain seizure warrants for the following items: – $323,793 from a brokerage account at Investscape. – 690 one-ounce American Eagle gold coins valued at $293,940. – 545 one-ounce Austrian Philharmonic gold coins valued at $228,900. – $42,000 down payment for the purchase of the jet, which had been converted into $30,000 worth of airplane parts and $12,000 in cash.”

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4 Responses to “Atlanta Journal Constitution: 3 Floridians Charged In Alleged $425 Million ‘Yellow Pages’ Directory Scam; Separate Research Shows Brother Of 1 Of The Defendants Is International Fugitive”

  1. Another variant is to send businesses a bogus bill for “Yellow Pages” listings.

    A variant of this scam has been used in the UK and Europe. Known as the “Euro Directory Scam”, it goes under various guises – “European City Guide”, “Euro Business Guide”, “World Business Directory” amongst others.

    Labour MEP Richard Corbett has been trying to stop this scam – his site has some useful links:

  2. [off topic]
    A update on the E-Bullion stabbing:

    Two men have been arrested in connection with the fatal stabbing in 2008 of a woman in Century City, allegedly at the behest of her husband, authorities said Tuesday.

  3. Tony H: A update on the E-Bullion stabbing:

    Tony, thank you for this. As the story points out, four people now have been implicated in the murder of Pamela Fayed.

    Readers may wish to see this earlier story for an additional reference:


  4. […] a vendor never was clear. What was clear is that regulators long have warned the public about Yellow Pages scams, which appear in various […]