AG James stops Steamin’ Weenie from mimicking NY Department of State website
STATEWIDE — Attorney General Letitia James put an end to two websites that were impersonating the New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) and excessively charging users for services that NYSDOS provided.
The deceptive websites, developed by Thomas Romano and his company, Steamin’ Weenie LLC (Steamin’ Weenie), closely imitated NYSDOS’ Division of Corporations site by using the agency’s official seal and logo, and allowed users to file various business-related documents with federal, state, and local entities at much higher prices than NYSDOS charged.
One of the websites demanded $135 for a certified copy of a certificate of incorporation, while NYSDOS only charged $10 at the time. The NYSDOS assists individuals in filing paperwork for their businesses, such as corporate registry documents or starting a limited liability company (LLC).
The websites did not disclose that they were operated by a private third-party agreeing to file documents on behalf of their users. In addition to shutting down the websites, Attorney General James secured $44,387 in penalties from the company and its owner.
“Deceiving consumers is not a clever business strategy, it’s unethical and illegal,” James said. “These websites duped hardworking New Yorkers attempting to establish their own business and file the required paperwork. Swindlers may believe they are cunning, but breaking state laws and tricking New Yorkers will land you in trouble with my office. I encourage everyone to be cautious and ensure the websites they use to conduct government business are legitimate.”
“Pretending to be the New York Department of State to swindle business owners out of their hard-earned money was not only deceitful, unfair, and misleading, but also illegal,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “Attorney General James shares the Department’s commitment to protecting New Yorkers, and we thank her for her determination in holding these offenders accountable.”
The NYSDOS informed the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of the fraudulent websites. The websites, which the company has since removed, significantly copied the appearance and design of the official website from 2021.
For instance, the homepage of one website displayed a logo strikingly similar to the one on the official website, a slightly altered version of the state’s Great Seal, and a customer support phone number with an Albany area code, even though the website’s sole operator resided downstate. The website also called itself the “Corporation Services Division,” a name akin to NYSDOS’ Division of Corporations.
Thomas Romano and his company agreed to pay $44,387 in penalties and prohibits the company and its owner from using any government logos, seals, or similar imagery to deceive consumers into believing they are dealing with a government entity. They must also clearly and conspicuously disclose to consumers that they are a private third-party and not affiliated with the government.
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