Santa Rosa, CA – December 21, 2018 – District
Attorney Jill Ravitch announced today that Friend Trusted, Inc., a Delaware
Corporation and GoSmith Inc., a Delaware Corporation, the operators of the
website Gosmith.com, agreed to a Stipulated Judgment, approved and ordered by
Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Allan D. Hardcastle, requiring the
corporations to pay $270,000 dollars in penalties, $10,000 in investigative
costs, and $20,000 in restitution for violating state false advertising laws.
Gosmith.com assists consumers in locating contractors and other service
case arose out of an investigation into an unlicensed contractor, Anthony
Burke, who advertised on the site. The victim in that case, an elderly woman,
found the unlicensed contractor on Gosmith.com where he was listed as licensed,
insured and bonded. Additionally, the Better Business Bureau had received
complaints that businesses who advertised on the site were charged for leads
that they did not authorize or that were not legitimate requests for bids. Both
companies cooperated with the investigation and have agreed to make changes to
their website so that it is clear to consumers that they are not performing an
independent investigation or review of the companies listed on their site but
merely providing information provided by third parties. The companies also
agreed to revise their refund policy with respect to charges for leads.
Burke will be sentenced on December 24, 2018 under the terms of a plea
agreement to a four year sentence with two years to be served in custody and
two years on mandatory probation.
Attorney Jill Ravitch stated that “In order to protect our community it is
important that the representations made to consumers for services or products
that they use or purchase are clear and not misleading.” Consumers are reminded
that before hiring a contractor to perform services they should verify that the
contractor is licensed, insured and bonded and that there are no complaints
against the contractor through the State Contractors Board at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/ .
District Attorneys Caroline Fowler and Matt Cheever handled this matter on
behalf of Sonoma County in conjunction with John Wilson, Deputy District
Attorney from the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office.