A federal court ordered the operators of a business directory scam to pay the Federal Trade Commission more than $1.2 million to use for reimbursing victims. 

Defendants Ivan Chernev, German Lebedev and their companies, based in Canada, allegedly sent collection warnings demanding payment of more than $2,000 after billing small businesses and nonprofits in the U.S. for unwanted listings in online business directories. When consumers refused to pay, the defendants sent dunning notices, posing as a third-party collection agency.

The court halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets pending litigation. The defendants didn't respond to the FTC’s allegations and the court has entered a default judgment against them, banning them from doing business directory business. The order resolves FTC charges filed in March.

Using several business names, the defendants allegedly sent medical practices, churches and retirement homes unsolicited invoices with the familiar "walking fingers” image, seeking $480.95 or a similar amount for a one-year directory listing. When consumers ignored the invoices, the defendants sent the collection notices.

The defendants include: American Yellow Browser Inc.; American Yellow Group Inc.; Distribution H.E.P. Inc., also doing business as American Yellow Distribution and Medical Yellow Directories Inc.; Official Yellow Guide Inc.; Publication A.A.P. Inc., also d/b/a All American Pages and Official Yellow Guide; Publication A.Y.B. Inc., also d/b/a American Yellow Browser Inc., American Yellow Group Inc. and All American Pages Inc.; Publications A.Y.D. Inc.; Ivan Chernev, also d/b/a American Yellow Corporation Inc., General Credit Protection Inc., and Credit Bureau Recovery; and German Lebedev, also d/b/a American Yellow Directories Inc.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, entered a default judgment and order against the defendants on November 20, 2015.

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