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Local News Story

Kern, Tulare sue company over deceptive ads

Filed: 06/10/1999

By JESSICA FARGEN
Californian staff writer
e-mail: jfargen@bakersfield.com

Kern and Tulare county district attorneys have filed a civil suit against a company that they claim took more than $6,000 from people answering help wanted ads.

The suit filed Thursday alleges High-Tech Safety Inc. placed deceptive ads in California newspapers, including The Bakersfield Californian, offering a $1,000-a-week managerial job.

In reality, the attractive salary included commission, the work was in sales and the ad said nothing about the $155 people paid before starting, said Barbara Greaver, Tulare County deputy district attorney.

"They didn't tell people that it was totally a sales position," Greaver said. "Most people wouldn't have applied if they knew it was sales."

Representatives from High-Tech Safety, based in Van Nuys, were unavailable for comment Thursday.

To work at High-Tech applicants paid a $60 registration fee, and $95 for a fire-safety kit.

The kit included items such as fire extinguishers, that the employees then sold.

"It wasn't until after they paid those funds that they learned this was just a sales job," said Kern County Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn.

More than 40 people in the Central Valley have complained to Better Business Bureaus and district attorneys' offices about High-Tech, Greaver said. She expected the number to jump once the suit is publicized.

The Better Business Bureau of South Central California in Bakersfield has received 21 complaints about High-Tech.

The 5-year-old company has 36 offices nationwide, including one in Bakersfield and several more in California, said Arlene Lepe, who works in High-Tech's Van Nuys headquarters.

The suit asks High-Tech Safety to pay $2,500 for each deceptive ad, Greaver said, adding that meant each time an ad appeared over the last couple years was a violation.

The suit also requires restitution for each person.

High unemployment rates and the tempting get-rich-quick promises may have been why people paid the money, Greaver said.

"It's really hard for people to find a job, so I think they (High-Tech) prey on people who are down on their luck," Greaver said. "It sounds like you don't need any background, and no experience necessary. It sounds ideal for someone who is desperately seeking employment."

According to the Better Business Bureau, High-Tech has resolved 11 of the 21 complaints against it since it opened in Bakersfield in November 1997.

People with complaints on High-Tech Safety can contact the Kern County district attorney's office consumer fraud division at 868-2791.


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