AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn announced today the filing of a lawsuit against Tom Hill a/k/a Tom Hicks and his company, AAA Legal Alternatives, for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Specifically, Hill is accused of falsely marketing and profiting from "Dominican Celebrity Divorce," a phony divorce service, over the Internet.
"It does not matter if fraudulent businesses use the phone, mail or the Internet for their scams. Those who deceive Texas consumers will be punished," said Attorney General Cornyn. "If you have a question about whether a web site is operating legally, please call my consumer protection hotline." The hotline number is 1-800-621-0508.
From Sept. 1997 until Jan. 1999, Hill advertised through his web site that he was able to obtain "quick" divorces for United States residents through the Dominican Republic. Hill stated he could obtain divorces "in as little as three days" from the day he received the paperwork and payment and that no one had to appear in court.
The fee ranged from $650 to $1,595 depending on how quickly the consumer wanted the divorce, whether it was unilateral or mutual consent, or whether the consumer was purchasing Hill's "lay-away" divorce plan. Consumers were instructed to download paperwork from the Internet and mail it with the appropriate payment to Hill at an El Paso, Texas address.
Many consumers who purchased Hill's "quick" divorce packages never received written court verification of the divorce. In these cases, there is no evidence that a divorce was granted, or that Hill even made an effort to obtain the divorce.
Hill's advertisement also stated that "all divorces in the Dominican Republic are granted." However, according to the laws of the Dominican Republic, non-resident foreigners are not eligible for unilateral divorces in the Dominican Republic. And if a consumer wants a mutual consent divorce, one of the divorcing spouses has to make a personal appearance in the Dominican Court. These are facts Hill does not disclose.
The lawsuit, filed today in Travis County District Court, asks for a permanent injunction against Hill and AAA Legal Alternatives, restitution for consumers, civil penalties of up to $10,000, court costs and attorneys' fees. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Pedro Perez, Jr. of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.
If you have a complaint against a similar business, please contact the Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-621-0508 or fill out a complaint online at www.oag.state.tx.us.
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