A number of affiliate sellers on Amazon have been offering fraudulent editions of more than fifteen of our titles. Some purport to be from the 19th century (and earlier) and bear prices of more than $1,000. Amazon has failed over several months to remove these listings—for which it collects fees—despite polite demands, impolite demands, and a threat of litigation.
Hence, to court.
The action, John C. Boland vs Amazonsales.com was filed on August 30, 2021 in Baltimore Circuit Court. The case number is 24-c-21-003724. Amazon’s registered agent in Maryland was served on September 8.
Here is a small ample of the fraudulent listings:
The Shamus Winners Vol II, edited by Robert J. Randisi, published 2012, list price $12. Treasure Media, of Oregon, miraculously offers an “1842” edition at $920.
Promises Made and Broken, by Christine Matthews, published 2014, list price $10. A classic in every sense. Libramedia of Plano, Texas, has discovered a “January 1, 1600” edition it offers for a mere $61.
Noir 13, by Ed Gorman, published 2011, list price $12. The brilliant book sleuths at Twin City Rarities, Plano, Texas, have turned up a “January 1, 1876” edition that it will let go at $1,002. Other Texas wizards have found an edition from exactly a year earlier that they price at between $801 and $1,052.
The Man Who Knew Brecht, by John C. Boland, published 2012, list price $9. Turning New Leaf, of Plano, Texas offers a “January 1, 1900” copy at $954.
The full roster of nearly 100 listings of fake editions is cited in our Complaint, which you can read on Pacer. This information was provided to Amazon, in writing, on multiple occasions. As our complaint notes, Amazon receives listing fees from these sellers. Perhaps more important to our pleading that Amazon is a profit-participant in the fraud, Amazon receives 15% plus change on successful sales.
Despite a couple of outlier addresses, all of the dozen-plus offending sellers appear to be based in the Dallas area. They may be under a single entity’s control.
Whether the purpose of this fraud is mere fleecing of imbecilic book buyers or is something else makes an intriguing question. High posted prices across a number of seemingly unrelated venues for items that may or may not ever be sold are an ideal tool for creation of false invoices to explain otherwise inexplicable income. That point was made to Amazon, to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas, and to the Texas Attorney General’s office in Austin, all in meticulous detail, in April. As we have contractual publishing arrangements with Amazon, we can demand an accounting from the company and have now started that process.
If you have any information that would support our claim—or examples of other independent publishers’ titles being misused in a similar way—please notify me at crime at perfectcrimebooks.com.
JOHN C. BOLAND PERFECT CRIME BOOKS September 10, 2021
There's nothing like a lawsuit to get the other party's attention. By last evening, more than half the fraudulent listings cited in our Complaint, includiing the four noted above, had been washed from Amazon's on-line sales platform. So had every trace of one of our titles, including the lawful edition. Meanwhile the Texas consortium had created new $900-plus offerings for a title not previously affected. This may take a while.
Either my eyesight is fading or this is a game of whak-a-mole. Three of the four titles mentioned above--a mere fraction of those listed in the Complaint--either remain up or are back up in fanciful, nonexistent editions from this Texas seller who appears to have more guises than Henri Beyle. If you thought the private eye story was a 19th or 20th century invention, please note that Bob Randisi's collection The Shamus Winners Volume II is "available" in editions from 1800, 1842 and 1851 at hundreds of dollars a pop. These crooks are that brazen. Gorman's and Matthews's story collections are also offered--Christine's in editions from 1600 and 1634. She's an old pro in every sense. So . . . I'm going to be interested in Amazon's responses to Interrogatories, which are due in 30 days. They have slightly less than that to respond to the Complaint.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon has removed the case to U.S. District Court for Maryland, where it's now Case No. 1:21-cv-02579-JKB. Amazon asserts (falsely) that there's a federal claim for copyright infringement. We've filed for Remand to state court.
The main effect of Removal has been to delay Amazon's obligation to answer the Complaint in state court past the October 8 deadline, and to delay discovery, in which Interrogatory answers were due October 13.
In the meantime, I've collected more than a hundred screenshots of garishly overpriced books from the same seller(s) that don't involve Perfect Crime. Some entail absurdly fake publication-date assertions, others just offer $5 paperbacks for hundreds of dollars. Whatever's up with Amazon's business partners in Texas, it's being done with enthusiasm. More than a score of business names have been created, all operating out of Post Office addresses and UPS drops. Also I've found that listers who are nominally abroad and are playing a similar game may, in at least some cases, arrange for delivery of purchased books through the Texas operation. Weird. Order books through Amazon sellers supposedly based in Turkey, they arrive from American sellers as diverse as Goodwill, Half Price Books, an Amazon fulfillment center and so on.
Whatever else I may say in the litigation, I can't accuse Amazon of keeping a clean house.
UPDATE 12/11/21 I withdrew the motion to remand and have filed an Amended Complaint that can be viewed along with the other filings on Pacer under the abbreviated federal case number 21-cv-02579. At the time I brought the action, I was unaware of the years of controversy over pirated editions on Amazon's website. This somewhat undermines the "Oh, gosh! We had no idea!" defense, which was the line the company took in an article last week in The New York Times.