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Cox v. Eberle Associates

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

October 29, 2019

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER COX, Plaintiff,
v.
EBERLE ASSOCIATES, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JOHN A. GIBNEY, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Francis Schaeffer Cox, a federal inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this Complaint against Eberle Associates, Tammy Cali, William D. Griffins, and Mike Murray ("Defendants"). The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         I. PRELIMINARY REVIEW

         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The first standard includes claims based upon '"an indisputably meritless legal theory, '" or claims where the "'factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates, 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzkev. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 1 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[] only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."' BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face," id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Ad. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke, SI A F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         II. SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS

         In his Complaint, Cox alleges:[1]

7. On February 23, 2015, Defendant Eberle Associates had its Agent, Direct Mail Processors issue a check in the amount of $38, 000 to Free Schaeffer Cox. This check was sent, along with a letter, to Maria Rensel, who claimed to be the "Project Manager" of the Free Schaeffer Cox "Project," with an address of 1676 Taroka Drive, Fairbanks, AK 99709. This $38, 000 was the proceeds of a test mailing created by Eberle Associates, allegedly on behalf of Free Schaeffer Cox. However, Maria Rensel, and Eberle and Associates did not have lawful authorization to raise funds in the name of Schaeffer Cox or Free Schaeffer Cox.
8. On March 18, 2015, Defendant Eberle Associates, through its President/CEO Tammy Cali, and Vice President William D. Griffins, agreed and signed a contract with Maria Rensel, who signed as "Project Manager," and Richard Neff who signed as an Officer of the organization as "Vice Chairman." The parties appearing on this contract were Eberle Associates and Free Schaeffer Cox, which was said to be a "Project of Alaskans for Liberty." 9. The contract stated that the Defendant Eberle Associates would provide services by advising the Client on issues related to the Client's direct mail fundraising program, as well as services of conducting the actual direct mail mailings, which sought donations to Free Schaeffer Cox.
10. On March 18, 2015, Defendant Eberle Associates had their Agent, Mile Murray, who is alleged by the Defendants to be the President of Direct Mail Processors, agree and sign a contract with Maria Rensel, who claimed to be the Project Manager of Free Schaeffer Cox. This agreement was also signed by Bill Rensel, who did not identify himself as an Officer of this so-called project, or of Alaskans for Liberty.
11. Defendant Eberle Associates issued Free Schaeffer Cox post-test projections stating that the first year would gross revenue of $1, 050, 880; the second year would gross revenue of $1, 538, 385, and the third year would gross revenue $1, 705, 353. The agreement was signed for 36 months, and approximately 24 months of the agreement was completed before Eberle Associates ceased all mailings in November 2016. Defendant Eberle Associates did advise that Free Schaeffer Cox donations far surpassed their projections of gross revenue for the first approximately 24 months.
12. During the time of the direct mail program, Defendants Eberle Associates, Tammy Cali, and William D. Griffins did, in fact, commit acts that are considered fraud under the law -despite the fact that there was an absence of intent to deceive- because of violations of a public or private trust or confidence. There was a clear misrepresentation and a breach of fiduciary duty, and the use of undue influence committed by Eberle Associates, when Tammy Cali, and William D. Griffins assured Plaintiff that all monies would remain in the Direct Mail Account, after Plaintiff notified Defendants that those who claim to be Officers of Alaskans for Liberty and Free Schaeffer Cox Project were in fact frauds, and not only was Plaintiff not receiving the funds raised for his legal defense fund, but he also never authorized any of ...

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