PHOENIX (CN) - A law firm claims in a RICO lawsuit that The Rainmaker Institute - which calls itself "the nation's largest law-firm marketing provider" - charged it $49,000 to increase its visibility on Google, knowing that its work violated Google's guidelines.
Seikaly & Stewart, of Farmington Hills, Mich., sued The Rainmaker Institute and its CEO Stephen Fairley, in Federal Court.
Seikaly & Stewart claim the defendants created a "bogus Internet marketing program, supposedly designed for small law firms and sole practitioners."
"The stated purpose of the marketing programs was to attract potential clients to use defendant's services and to induce plaintiff's firm and other similar firms to obtain the same services from the same defendants ('the Victim Firms')," the complaint states. "The RICO scheme was based in part upon a series of fraudulent representations and misrepresentations about the defendants' experience and skills in the use of what is known as Search Engine Optimization ('SEO'); and in part on the execution of scheme to perpetrate an ongoing fraud upon various attorneys and small firms after they had purchased the worthless marketing services."
Seikaly & Stewart claim that "the Victim Firms were duped into believing that the services to be provided by The Rainmaker Institute, a company owned and/or controlled by defendant Fairley, would be effective in making the web sites and related web pages of the Victim Firms appear high in the results of the most important internet search engines - most significantly Google - when key terms chosen by the Victim Firms to describe their practices and the services offered were entered in a search by potential clients. Plaintiff and others paid many thousands of dollars, individually and collectively to The Rainmaker Institute to obtain these services, only to find that they were, in most instances completely unsuccessful. The Rainmaker Institute disclaimed all liability for lack of success of its efforts, and this case is not brought for lack of success per se, the lack of success merely being evidence of fraud and damages to business or property. The action is based on the fact that, at the time that the defendants were promoting this marketing scheme to the Victim Firms, they knew that the techniques they proposed to use were in violation of the guidelines already well-established and published by Google; knew that Google was moving rapidly to crack down on violators; knew that use of these techniques would not only fail to enhance the likelihood that the Victim Firms would rise in Google's rankings but would actually be downgraded to the point where the websites being used by the Victim Firms would become 'contaminated' for search engine purposes; knew that they intended to use automated programs rather than direct personal effort to create the appearance that links to the Victim Firms web pages (the key to rising in search engine rankings) were being generated in the numbers represented; and knew that they intended to cloak their schemes in allegations of 'trade secrets' to avoid the balance of the scheme from coming to light."
Seikaly & Stewart claim that Rainmaker is a RICO scheme, as "the conduct of the defendants meets the pattern and continuity requirements of the statute, as interpreted, because of the number of victims, the fact that the bogus program was sold to numerous Victim Firms at varying points in time and constitutes not an isolated or incidental feature of the defendants' businesses but is at the core thereof. Moreover, the plaintiff has standing to bring this action by virtue of being a legal person injured in its business or property by, at a minimum, payment of $49,000 in fees for the bogus services."
And, the law office claims, "even after it became evident that defendants' methods were not capable of achieving the results that had been represented to the victim firms and that, in fact, web page rankings were not being achieved as represented, defendants continued to market their services in much the same way and continued to withhold from existing victims the fact that the services for which the defendants were being paid were worthless."
Seikaly & Stewart wants its money back and punitive damages for racketeering.
It is represented by Michael Pianin of Scottsdale.