PRESS RELEASE FROM THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: MARCH 20, 2011
WEBSITE OPERATOR CHARGED WITH DEFRAUDING
GRIEVING FAMILIES OVER E-MEMORIAL PRODUCTS
Court’s Order for Preliminary Injunction
May Cast Light on Dead Poet’s Final Poem
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office filed fraud and other unlawful business practice claims yesterday against Los Angeles resident Edgar Scattergood, 45, and his various website-based corporations, including ForeverPrized.com, Inc. The District Attorney also requested that the court shut down ForeverPrized.com pending trial.
According to the government’s civil lawsuit, People v. ForeverPrized.com, Inc., et al, filed in the Santa Monica Branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court, ForeverPrized.com, Inc. is one of several dozen internet-based businesses started and maintained by the defendant Scattergood from his beachside offices in Venice, California. Scattergood’s inner cluster of websites purport to provide e-memorial and so-called Posthumous Vanity Publishing (PVP) services to widows and widowers of unpublished writers or to such writers themselves who wish to “pre-pay” for publishing services rendered after they die.
Scattergood’s lead website www.ForeverPrized.com offers to posthumously publish the creative works of loved ones who “have passed on to the Next Life after having their prized works passed over during This One.” The e-memorial publishing services include websites such as www.thecartooncowgirlforever.com that present to “an all-accepting Universe” the loved ones’ unpublished works such as poems, novels and short stories along with scholarly commentary and line-by-line annotations.
Scattergood offers other services at ForeverPrized.com including eGraves, eUrns, eUlogies, and the so-called “grexting” (grave + text) service which allows survivors to use their phones to send text messages to the eGraves of loved ones. The lawsuit alleges that Scattergood accepts payments for all of these services but then refuses to provide them.
“We’re alleging that Edgar Scattergood preys on one of the most vulnerable populations, the grieving families of unpublished poets and writers,” said Deputy District Attorney Carla Found, the lead prosecutor on the case and who started the country’s first cyber-fraud task force.
There are over three hundred known such victims in this matter, nearly all of them from the Los Angeles area. However, one widow, Penny Smith, 78, from the Missouri Ozarks paid at least $11,990 for the website www.TheHayfieldForever.com, where her husband Demod’s last known poem, The Hayfield, was to be published.
Scattergood, along with a rogue group from UCLA’s English Department, also promised to provide scholarly annotations and commentary to The Hayfield to help the family understand what the poem meant. The Hayfield was to be e-published with those annotations. Another family from Redding, California paid $15,000 for similar services for the website, www.TheCartoonCowgirlForever.com, while another family from New Orleans paid for www.SeeminglyForever.com. According to the People’s lawsuit, Scattergood took the families’ money but refused to provide the services.
The District Attorney’s request for a temporary restraining order to force Scattergood to shut down his websites, including ForeverPrized.com, was heard yesterday morning. After an unusual hearing in which the presentations of the preliminary evidence were easily eclipsed by a dramatic reading of an excerpt from The Hayfield, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Asa Hornscar issued an order that met the District Attorney’s office halfway. Under that injunction order, Scattergood does not have to shutter his websites, but he must do the following pending a trial on the merits:
1. Cease all new contracting for paid services on ForeverPrized.com and any other so-called cyber-memorial website owned or operated by either defendant.
2. Provide the District Attorney a webpage on each of the websites which Deputy Carla Found will use to both provide and solicit information about the case.
3. Provide any previous contracted services, even the disputed ones such as the literary annotations, to the lead complainants, Demod Smith’s survivors. Scattergood is to pay all costs associated with the travel of scholars and scientists to the Ozarks. The scholars involved with Scattergood, including Dr. Miguel Starkweather, formerly of UCLA’s literature department, must also abide by its contract to assist the Smith family and Scattergood with those services.
Judge Asa Hornscar’s otherwise straightforward ruling took an unusual turn when she addressed one particular line in the People’s motion for the injunction: ”The People’s brief implies that the Defendant’s actions compare to those of predatory insects. Defense counsel objected to the characterization and this Court also rejects such comparison. Insects are the most diverse and hardy form of life. They keep our planet’s fields and woods pollinated and then they clean them of corpses and defecation. With his deliberate scheme to defraud widows, Scattergood and his companies are more akin to the defecation that insects must clean up. Therefore, the prosecutor much maligns the insect world by comparing Edgar Scattergood to any of its members.”
Deputy Found said she was happy to retract the comparison. She added that the unique lawsuit and her early strike against Scattergood should send a message of warning to businesses and consumers alike. “Internet fraud is alive, but well-prosecuted,” she said. “And as an unpublished writer and poet myself, I take a special interest in the Scattergood species of fraud.”
Under the Court’s injunction, the website www.TheHayfieldForever.com and Scattergood’s Facebook page will temporarily become the hubs for the defendants’ businesses and the District Attorney’s efforts to reach out to consumers and victims. In order to assure more prompt service to the Smith family, the annotations of lines from the hay farm will be posted twice a week on
If anyone, especially consumers of ForeverPrized.com’s services, has information they believe to be relevant to the prosecution of Edgar Scattergood and ForeverPrized.com, Inc., please contact Deputy District Attorney Carla Found at her beachside offices, just above the defendants’ own office in Venice.
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