Book of High School Achievers Never Published
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A businessman accused of defrauding high school students nationwide by failing to supply Who’s Who in High School yearbooks apologized and said no fraud was intended.
Steven E. Stockton of Beverly Hills said Monday he ran out of money before he could publish the yearbook despite attempts to borrow funds.
″We never intended any kind of fraud,″ said Richard Angelini, one of three men named along with Stockton in a civil complaint the state attorney general’s office filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
″We’re certainly sorry for what happened,″ Angelini said. ″It was never done on purpose.″
The suit names Stockton, Angelini, Emil Moscowitz, Elvin Chan, and two of Stockton’s companies, the Who’s Who Honor Society Inc. and the National Merit Foundation, the attorney general’s office said. Civil penalties of up to $500,000 were sought against Stockton and the other men, who are officers in his PCN Distributing Corp.
The complaint says the defendants sent letters to students across the country, telling them they could be listed in the books honoring high achievers and could order the books, plaques and certificates for $30. But the books were not published and refunds were not sent to those who had placed orders, the complaint contends.
The complaint also alleges Stockton had no information on students’ achievements since he used a commercial mailing list for his notices. It contended he said in the mailer the society awarded generous scholarships when little money was actually available.
Initially, the mailers said Who’s Who Honor Society was publishing a Who’s Who in High School yearbook.
The publisher of the established Who’s Who Among American High School Students has sued Stockton for trademark infringement, the complaint says.
After that suit was filed, Stockton and his associates allegedly sent a similar mailing, this time using the names National Merit Foundation and the National Honor Roll publication.
The National Merit Scholarship Corp., which promotes the National Merit Scholarship Program, also sued Stockton, alleging trademark infringement, the complaint says.
Stockton said funds were exhausted in December. Customers complained because ″we couldn’t respond to all the mail that was sent to us,″ he said.
He said the mailing lists, purchased from a Chicago firm, contained the names of students who had been accepted to some of the nation’s major universities.
Angelini contended that many orders for diplomas, plaques and key chains were filled and nearly $10,000 worth of scholarships were distributed.
The complaint seeks an injunction barring defendants from soliciting sales of any publications for 10 years.