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Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Announces Consent Judgment Against Madison Locksmith, LLC, Joshua Burlin and Shachar Elharar for Deceptive Advertising Practices

 

MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that an enforcement action brought by his office against Madison-area locksmiths has resulted in a consent judgment against Madison Locksmith, LLC and its owners, Joshua Burlin, of San Diego, California, and Shachar Elharar, of Madison. The judgment imposes penalties and costs of $35,000, which will increase to $50,000 if the defendants fail to comply with the judgment. The judgment also prohibits the defendants from engaging in deceptive conduct in the future.

 

The state filed this action in July 2010 after an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). The lawsuit alleged that Joshua Burlin and Shachar Elharar, as the owners and operators of Madison Locksmith, LLC, engaged in a variety of false and deceptive advertising to promote their locksmith business. These practices included the following:

 

  • using numerous business names and false addresses in their internet advertising;
  • posting phony positive consumer reviews of defendants' own businesses and negative reviews of defendants' competitors; and
  • misrepresenting to customers that their locks could not be opened and had to be drilled out and replaced, at substantial additional expense.

 

The defendants previously operated a retail business under the name Mad City Locksmith at 825 East Johnson Street in Madison. Additional business names allegedly used by the defendants include:

Crazy Larry's Auto Unlockers
Crazy Larry's Locksmith Service
24/7 Locksmith
24 Hour Emergency Locksmith
24 Hour Fast Locksmith
Express Locksmith Madison
Middleton Locksmith

007 Locksmith
A aa Madison Locksmith
AAA Madison Locksmith
Affordable Twenty Four Hour Locksmith
A aaaaaa Paramount Locksmith
AAA All Day All Night Locksmith
Madison Locksmith Express--24/7 Service

The judgment prohibits Burlin and Elharar from the following conduct:

 

  • advertising a false business address;
  • advertising more than one business name and one telephone number for each business location;
  • posting internet reviews of their own or competing businesses;
  • seeking to deceptively divert customers from competitors' websites, or posting deceptive statements about competing businesses;
  • answering the phone in a misleading manner with respect to the identity of their business;
  • failing to provide receipts without accurately identifying the business and person rendering the service;
  • misrepresenting that a lock must be drilled out.

 

Defendant Joshua Burlin was convicted earlier this year of two felony charges; one count of false swearing and one count of identity theft. The charges stemmed from the state's investigation of his locksmith business practices. Burlin was sentenced to probation for those offenses.

 

“Fraudulent advertising harms not only consumers but honest businesses that play by the rules,” Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. “We will not tolerate businesses that mislead consumers, either about their own business or about competitors' businesses.”

 

Assistant Attorney General John Greene represented the state in the case, which was investigated and referred to the Department of Justice by DATCP. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Moeser approved the judgment.