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Book Seller Sued for Defrauding Federal Prisons

In June 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reached a $75,689 settlement with a couple accused of trying to scam the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) into buying textbooks it had not ordered.

The civil complaint alleged John P. Ryan and Marie Motz Ryan operated Scholars in Print, a sole proprietorship that used telemarketing to sell textbooks to libraries, educational institutions and federal and state prisons, among other entities, from its office in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. The complaint also covered conduct involving the Ryans prior to the 2014 sale of African American Publications, which engaged in similar activity as Scholars in Print.

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General conducted an investigation into both businesses. It found that Scholars in Print demanded payment from BOP facilities in Marianna and Pensacola, Florida; Alderson, West Virginia; Ray Brook, New York and Washington, D.C., for “textbooks that the facilities did not order or agree to purchase during unsolicited telemarketing calls.”

Even when prison officials rejected the telemarketing offers, Scholars in Print would send textbooks to the facilities, bill them, and then turn the bills over to collection agencies. At other times, the business would offer to send free sample books but later bill for them.

The conduct covered by the settlement agreement occurred between July 2015 and June 5, 2017. The Ryans “remain liable for pre-sale conduct associated with African American Publications. In addition to the monetary penalty, the Ryans agreed “not to market products or services to any agency of the United States through unsolicited communications or telemarketing of any kind.” The suit was brought under the False Claims Act. See: United States v. Ryan, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:18-cv-02674-GAM.

“The False Claims Act is a powerful tool to stem the tide of fraud against the government, and the allegations in this complaint fall squarely in that category,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said in a press release. “Those who try to cheat a federal agency out of taxpayer money will not get away with it, and this case demonstrates our Office is ready, willing, and able to put a stop to this kind of behavior.”  


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