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Weekly paper teams up with tv station for undercover report.

The Evergreen (Ala.) Courant, a 96-year-old weekly publication, recently joined with KDFW-TV, a Dallas, Texas-based CBS affiliate, for an undercover investigation of a fraudulent company advertising in newspapers across the country.

The two media members set up wiretaps in the office of the district attorney of Conecuh County, Ala., and called an 800 number belonging to the First Central Financial Services in Dallas. Courant reporter Artie Wright was assured of a $15,000 loan by a company representative if he would send a $250 cashier's check or money order.

After interviewing several residents of the small Alabama community who had sent in money to the firm and had not received anything in return, the group flew up to Dallas to confront company officials.

Wright and Becky Oliver, investigative reporter for KDFW, entered the offices of First Central Financial Services the next morning with hidden microphones and an undercover camera. Wright demanded the money he had been promised the day before.

The investigative team found no computers, which they were told were in the company to research credit histories of prospective clients, and were told no company officials were available to meet with them.

They later re-entered the building with television cameras and questioned one of the company officials. He refused to answer questions about the company's operations.

It was later learned that the company was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Dallas Police Department and the Texas attorney general. Dozens of complaints had been registered with the law enforcement offices and over 500 complaints had been filed from at least 24 states with the Dallas Better Business Bureau.

Officials with First Central Financial Services denied any knowledge of Kramer Advertising, a company which placed advertisements in newspapers across the nation for First Central, Midwest Financial Services and Pacific Financial Services. Each of the companies, as well as Kramer Advertising, used the same address and phone number.

Following the publication of two articles aboaut the investigation and the broadcasting of a two-part news segment in Dallas, hundreds of additional compalints were received from other people who had sent in money for the loans. As of two weeks ago, First Central Financial Services was still in operation. Estimates indicate that as many as 100 residents of Canecuh County have fallen for this scam.

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Title Annotation:Evergreen Courant in Alabama
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Dec 7, 1991
Words:384
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