Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced on Wednesday that the Office of the Attorney General has taken enforcement action to halt a deceptive scheme that scammed more than 1,000 businesses and non-profit organizations in the state. The scheme, run by Centurion Filing Services, involved inducing businesses to pay an exorbitant fee for a Certificate of Good Standing that they did not need and could have obtained directly from the Rhode Island Secretary of State at a significantly lower cost.

According to the complaint filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, Centurion sent solicitations by mail to new businesses and non-profits that appeared on a list of entities registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, which is published on its website on a weekly basis. The solicitations, made to appear as official forms, informed the entities that they only had “one step left” to complete their registration process – paying Centurion a fee of $84.50 to secure the certificate. Centurion then submitted requests for the certificates to the Secretary of State’s Office, which were delivered to the businesses, while keeping the difference in payment.

Example of mailed solicitation letter

As a result of the enforcement action, Centurion is required to pay $104,000 in restitution to affected businesses and non-profits and a $25,000 civil penalty to the state. The company is also prohibited from any future mail solicitations in Rhode Island.

“These defendants deceptively targeted local businesses and non-profit organizations during a time when many were struggling with challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Eager to comply with the law, hard-working Rhode Islanders were tricked into paying an outrageously marked-up price for a service they may not have even needed.”

The Office of the Attorney General, which worked closely with the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office during the investigation, will be mailing notices and claim forms with detailed instructions to businesses and entities impacted by the scam. To obtain a refund, the entities must fill out the claim forms and return them to the Office by April 28, 2023.

In 2021, Attorney General Neronha worked with the General Assembly to restore the authority of the Office of the Attorney General to protect Rhode Island consumers against violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). The newly-strengthened DTPA has also been used in lawsuits against auto dealers for allegedly unfair pricing practices and a suit against a contractor for allegedly unlawful behavior, among other investigations.

The matter was handled on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General by Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Provazza and Special Assistant Attorney General Etie-Lee Schaub, with substantial assistance from Maureen Ewing and Jessica Cigna of the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division.

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