Monday, October 01, 2007

The (Laray) Carr ride: Are we there yet?

I posted two posts not too long ago on the suspicious publishers Laray Carr (a.k.a. LCP) and the suspected scammer Quincy Carr (a.k.a. Quincy LaRay Carr). As a basic summary, the company was supposedly publishing 30-plus magazines in September (didn't happen), but the writers got suspicious and discovered that Quincy Carr has been accused of being a scammer before.

It appears the (Laray) Carr ride is over... Or is it?

The LCP writers did NOT get paid. On Tuesday of last week, the writers received a mass mailing of rejection letters. There seems to be some confusion over whether ALL of the writers were "rejected," but to the best of my knowledge we have yet to hear from any writer who is still working with LCP.

(According to Stephanie Todd, a contractor working with the Laray Carr Company, six or seven writers were offered the opportunity to become regular contributors, while the rest were rejected. However, on Writer Beware a couple of writers claimed they were asked to become regular contributors, but that LCP did not follow through: The first of the two said she was still sent the same rejection letter as everyone else, and the other commented that they were not responding to her emails.)

Interestingly, the signer on the rejection letter was a Mr. Dean Person. The name on the contract the writers were given, however, was a Mr. David Person. Does Laray Carr really have two Mr. Persons working for them, or did they make the guy up and then forget to double check with "D" name they had given him?

Supposedly, the LCP writers were rejected because their work was cr*p. I have very mixed feelings about this, as I have to admit that I'm not sure the quality was all that good. I've seen one of the articles, and it had spelling and grammatical errors sprinkled throughout; I also noticed that some of the writers had frequent errors in their comments and correspondence. However, note that I said some, whereas to the best of our knowledge ALL of the writers were rejected.

Also — and I think this is important — most of the writers were asked to turn out 10 or more articles, of 1,000 or 2,000 words, in several days' time. Under this kind of pressure, I can understand that the hurry might engender more mistakes than a writer might normally make.

Third, all of the writers who were expecting payment had already had their work accepted. No one complained about their spelling or grammar; on the contrary, they were told when and how they would be paid.

Finally, while LCP is claiming the quality of the work as grounds for rejection, their website and correspondence are littered with errors. You can see some of them in the rejection letter that was sent around. You can see more on the newest version of Laray Carr's website, which Victoria Strauss quotes in the comments on her Writer Beware post:

It begins:
"Creating Publications.........people can relate too"

It continues:

"Creating publications people can relate too, understand the daily affects of life, and social issues facing our readers. We hold high standards for editorial quality."

Un-frickin'-believable. Or, given what's already happened, maybe not.

While I admit I have seen errors in the comments, correspondence, and work of some of the LCP writers, none of it compares to the problems in Laray Carr's own correspondence and on their site.

Laray Carr's editors haven't been paid. Last week on Deb's Freelance Writing Jobs, Stephanie Todd told us that the editors were getting paid for their work; the reason the writers weren't, she said, was because their contracts stated they would only be paid for work that was published. Her comment from the FWJ thread was:

and also, the company had absolutely no problem paying the editors or designers for work that was INCOMPLETE and work they will never use.

because they were full aware that the contracts for them said they get paid to do the work, not if it is used, published or not.

However, it appears the editors haven't been paid, as one commenting on my second blog post about LCP:

Not only did the writers get screwed (they only lost a day or two of work and from what I hear about $50) but the "editors" like myself, put in 6 weeks of full time work for what was supposed to be $5,000.

Makes you wonder what the truth is, doesn't it?

Apparently, Hope and the other contractors haven't been paid either. Hope posted a long comment on the Writer Beware post the other day; among other things, she said she had not been paid. Her exact words were:

My contract expired 4 weeks ago and per my contract my pay date was net 15 days. I have not been paid a dime and have continued to work because I believe in LCP and what their plan is/was. I have no guarantee of every getting paid and have essentially donated these last four weeks as there is no existing contractual agreement between myself and the company.

I find this interesting, as I was pretty sure someone posted somewhere that Hope said she'd been paid. That was weeks ago, though; perhaps Hope was fibbing, either because she "believed in LCP" or because they told her to.

More recently, though, Stephanie indicated that she was having "no issues regarding payment" from Laray Carr:

I quoted them a large sum of money (which includes the cost of my company hiring several new employees and increasing our office space) to take on this monumental task, one I thought they would not be willing to accept- but to my surprise and delight, my company has experienced no issues regarding payment.

I'm not sure whether Stephanie was meaning to say that she has received payment or that LCP agreed to it, but considering the context — she was trying to defend Laray Carr from accusations of being a scam — it sounds more like she is saying she has actually received money from them. However, according to an anonymous commenter on my blog, that may not be the case:

Also, Stephanie Todd is a contract worker, as is Hope Hunt, both of whom are trying to figure out this mess. Whatever this is, a bad business venture or not, they had nothing but good intentions when they started and are also out a lot of money.

The entire thing is all very confusing. Personally, I think it is quite possible that in their fervor to defend Laray Carr and refute the scam accusations, both Hope and Stephanie may have suggested that they'd been paid when they actually hadn't.

Is Laray Carr a scam? Honestly, I can't say for sure whether they are — but I can't say for sure that they're not, either. A lot of people have gotten burned by LCP, including — it seems — the company's most dedicated defenders. However, it still looks to me to be enough like a scam that I'd warn my worst enemy to keep their distance.

My advice: If you had sent articles to Laray Carr, you now have documentation proving that you own the rights and can sell them at will. However, I would keep Googling the articles occasionally, and make sure they don't turn up anywhere without your permission, as I wouldn't trust Quincy Carr any further than I could throw him! If you want to set up a Google Alert to email you if your article ever shows up, you can do so here.

Also, I recommend contacting the police. This name and number for the local police in Terrell (where Quincy's addresses are all located) was posted on the Writer Beware thread:

Sergeant Ken McCann
972 551 6622

Another writer on the same thread apparently contacted a couple of local papers, who expressed interest in the story.

In other words, there are still things you can do. Maybe you won't ever see the money Laray Carr promised you, but you can protect yourself by watching out for your articles, and possibly even bring about justice by contacting the authorities and the media in Quincy's area. Even word-of-mouth on the Internet can help, as it will ensure that no one gets screwed by LCP again.

Finally, whether or not you were involved with the Laray Carr fiasco, learn from the experience: Make sure you only work under contract terms that are favorable to you. Negotiating a kill fee provision into your contract will make sure that you get paid even if your work doesn't get published. Likewise, you can insist the payment date being at publication or in six months, whichever comes first.


Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine - great summary. As of today, Thursday morning, the editors have not been paid. I am owed $7K and plan on not seeing a dime of it, ever. There is a lot of information that has not been made public yet, simply because the police and the FBI ar involved now.

Just yesterday - 10/3 - "Roger" sent an email with an attached form that wanted all of our information again. It was supposed to be faxed to a third party creditor who was paying the outstanding debts. Well, the form had typos and spelling errors - just like everything else from LCP did. And the fax # - it was through an efax service he had registered for an hour before. No third party creditor.

The whole shebang is a scam led by one person - Roger Owens/Quincy Carr/Dean Person/David Person, etc. The editors were not involved in any way except to be scammed themselves.

Anonymous said...

The plot thickens...I spoke to the web designer who was hired by cmcgroup to produce 43 magazine websites last week. His contact name was Bobby Carlson...could be another alias. When the designs were complete, suddenly payment can't be made until changes are made. Uh huh. The webdesigner bill is over $20K and has not been paid.

So, what is the penalty for International scams? I'll cross post this on Victoria's blog too.

Katharine Swan said...

Anonymous 5:14,

So there is more information that what we know? I wish I was privy to that. However, I think there is enough information out there right now to warn off other writers, designers, etc., which is about all we can do at this point. The rest is in the hands of the authorities.

Interesting about the email from Roger. If I were you, I would tell him to give you the name and number of the third party creditor. Let him know that you will send the required information to that person and only that person. See what information "Roger" gives you.

The authorities might also find that information interesting. It sounds like Quincy came up with the idea of identity theft by reading about the writers' fears.

That reminds me -- if anyone is concerned about identity theft, you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report by contacting any one of the three credit bureaus. If you don't feel like renewing the fraud alert every 90 days, you can also opt for a 7-year fraud alert. However, this will require creditors to go to extra lengths to verify your identity any time you apply for credit, which could get tiresome after several years.

Here is the contact information:

Fraud Division

Fraud Division

I don't have the information for contacting TransUnion's Fraud Division, but remember that you only actually need to contact one of the credit bureaus.

Katharine Swan said...

Anonymous 7:10,

Thanks to all of you guys for keeping my blog up-to-date on the current status. Have you been in touch with Bobby Carlson? If so, you should ask what name the "company" is operating under -- if it is really CMCGROUP, or if that is just their elance username. I want a definite company name to post on my blog.

Katharine Swan said...

I just saw a post over at Deb's FWJ blog that makes me think you meant that the client's name was Bobby Carlson, whereas I thought you meant it was the designer's name. Just wanted to post and say I think I get it now. :o)

Anonymous said...

Laray Carr/LC Publications/LCP Media signed a contract with myself for TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS to develop all of there websites... when asked for deposits they said "our CEO has been ripped off in the past by freelancers so doesnt like to pay deposits, so we did a deal that we would send over initial concepts then we would recieve the deposit that we asked for.... we sent over the concepts which in there own words "LOVED" did we ever recieve the deposit?! NO! Did we ever have any more contact from them? NO! When we hired a private investigator and they couldnt find any information on the company (at the time) nor the owners (there names didnt bring up ANY information) alarm bells started ringing... we sent an email stating that we'd had a private investigator look into them and was puzzled that they just seemed to be non existant they replied "we decided to have our in house team to do the design work instead, your more than willing to come and meet us at our offices, meet our investors to prove we are real" when we replied to say we would love to fly over from EUROPE to meet them and would gladly pay for the flights ourselves and not bill them, we didnt recieve anymore responces..... are they a real company?! Do they have any money?! Do they have a rich investor?! in my opinon.... HELL NO!

I feel sorry for bobby carlson who seems to have been scammed as well!

Katharine Swan said...

Thank you for the update, Anonymous. Good for you for calling their bluff and offering to fly in to meet them.

I am curious, though, what makes you think Bobby Carlson has been scammed. I think most of us assumed it was just another alias for Quincy Carr.


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