An Orange County businessman who operated an eBay-related scam that nabbed $45 million from more than 500,000 consumers nationwide learned his fate this week inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
Charles Gugliuzza, the onetime president of Commerce Planet, had hoped to escape the ire of U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J.Carney, but that didn't happen.
Carney issued a brutal final judgement and permanent injunction against Gugliuzza.
The judge concluded that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proved its case that Gugliuzza's operations, including OnlineSupplier, had from 2005 to 2008 used deceptive practices to lure consumers into a free "Online Auction Starter Kit" program to help sell products on eBay.
Angry consumers later discovered that the kit really wasn't free. Gugliuzza had secretly enrolled them in a monthly, credit card payment plan for the program.
Carney found Gugliuzza personally liable for the con game and ordered him to pay a whopping $18.2 million fine as well as submit himself for the next 20 years to a rigorous, record keeping regime for FTC inspections of his future business activities.
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The fine will go to the FTC to help fund future investigations into the practices of other white collar criminals.
One of Gugliuzza's defense lawyers is Wayne R. Gross, the former head of the U.S. Attorney's office in Santa Ana. Gross, who has made no secret of his desire to become a judge, was friends with Mike Carona, our disgraced, corrupt ex-sheriff and now federal inmate. Oddly, Gross--now with Greenberg Traurig LLP in Irvine--continued to associate with Carona while other federal law enforcement officials built their corruption case.
Gross, who has been roommates with Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit, had argued that the FTC's case against Gugliuzza was sloppy and unwarranted.