Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 25, 2007

JPD expects more serious charges in fraud case


By Kelly Young

news@jacksonvilleprogress.com

Detectives with the Jacksonville Police Department have begun a new investigation into the online dealings of Eual Brent Hallford, the Jacksonville man accused of defrauding numerous customers across the country with his sports memorabilia Web site, www.tradingcardcollectibles.com.

Last week Hallford was arrested and charged with three counts of credit card abuse and two counts of debit card abuse — both state jail felonies — but JPD is now looking further into the suspect’s business dealings to determine whether Internet fraud charges should also be filed.

“Right now we are investigating Hallford for charges more serious than state jail felony, and I anticipate that those charges will be filed. He was using the Internet to make his sales, so we are now looking at whether Internet fraud charges should be made in the case,” said Detective Daniel Franklin of JPD. “Because he was going outside the state of Texas with his sales, he could also be brought up on federal charges for going inter-state. The U.S. Postal Service is also involved in the investigation because some of the merchandise that was shipped was done by mail.”

Franklin said that while the official investigation into Hallford’s activities didn’t begin until Sept. 10 of this year, the department had been receiving information regarding him for more than a decade.

On numerous occasions, prior investigations into Hallford’s business practices were called off when disgruntled customers would receive the money or merchandise they had been waiting for, and would refuse to press charges.

Franklin said Hallford’s arrest was made possible because of information received by the Better Business Bureau of Tyler.

“We got a call from the Better Business Bureau, and they told us that they had had a few victims come forward with claims against him for bad business. I told them to bring whatever information that had to us, and they brought in just as huge box of claims from people who have contacted the Better Business Bureau regarding him,” he said.

Since that time, Detective Tonya Sonntag has been working to contact complainants and investigate leads. JPD’s investigation has been aided by a constant stream of phone calls from people claiming to be previous victims.

“They would get online, order their merchandise, enter their credit card information, the card would be deducted for the amount of money owed, but they never received any of the merchandise that they bought. We’ve had people from Michigan to California to Washington call in claiming to be victims,” Franklin said. “After speaking with several of them, we’ve found the amount of money taken in each transaction would range from $100 to $5,000. If we would be able to get in contact with every victim, the total amount of money taken would be close to the $200,000 or $300,000 range.”

According to Ann Harris, director of standards and practices for the Tyler BBB, Trading Card Collectibles currently has 109 closed complaints filed against the company, including 37 that were resolved by the business, 19 that remain unresolved and 53 which were not responded to by Hallford. Additional complaints may still be open.

Prior to taking ownership of TCC, Hallford worked as manager of Sports Cards Wholesale, a company plagued by similar complaints. When the company went out of business in the spring of 2006, 13 complaints remained unresolved and 27 hadn’t been responded to by the company.

“Mr. Hallford has called here and asked that the media be alerted to the fact that he has been attempting to resolve some of the complaints made against him; however, the record shows that they have not made a good-faith effort to resolve many of the complaints,” Harris said.

Harris recommends customers planning to purchase merchandise on the Internet should always do some research into the vendor they expect to use. Each local BBB maintains reliability reports for every company in their coverage area which include the number and type of complaints received by any given business.

“Cases like this could absolutely be avoided if consumers would check out a company before making a purchase,” Harris said. “That’s the whole point of having company reliability reports posted on the Internet — so that people can make sure they can trust the company that they are dealing with.”

TCC has had an unsatisfactory record on the BBB Web site since September 2006.

Attempts to contact Hallford were unsuccessful.