Business

Former Boise Chamber employee behind fake Yelp complaints, jewelry seller claims

The federal courthouse in Boise.
The federal courthouse in Boise. Idaho Statesman file

A Virginia woman who sells jewelry on eBay claims her sales fell to zero after an Eagle woman started posting false statements on the internet about her company.

Colleen Shuttlesworth, of Virginia Beach, and her company, Gempro, filed a defamation complaint Thursday in Boise federal court against Diane J. Taylor of Eagle.

Taylor, 50, is the former Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce senior marketing and communications manager. She told the Statesman on Thursday she was “let go” from the Chamber because of the Gempro incident. Taylor worked for the Chamber from May 2006 through September 2016, according to her LinkedIn page.

Taylor told the Statesman the lawsuit is “baseless.”

“[T]here were two other people involved in this dispute with the eBay seller and they were the ones who posted on Yelp and other online sites,” Taylor said via email. “I have email evidence that I did not write any of the comments. The plaintiff’s eBay account was shut down due to her misconduct based on eBay’s investigation.

“I am considering filing a countersuit for defamation of character leading to loss of income.”

Boise Metro Chamber Director Bill Connors confirmed Taylor is a former employee, but would not comment on the case or her departure.

According to the complaint:

Taylor purchased a diamond ring from Gempro on July 25 using two credit cards. Taylor told Shuttlesworth on Aug. 10 she was not satisfied with the ring and would be returning it.

Five days later, Taylor created a business profile named “Dazzle” on the website Yelp using Shuttlesworth’s home address and eBay username. Taylor then posted negative comments about the business to the website. Yelp publishes customer reviews about businesses.

Shuttlesworth received the returned ring on Aug. 19 and issued a refund to one of Taylor’s cards. Shuttlesworth said at the time, she was not aware Taylor had used two credit cards to pay for her ring, so the amount Taylor paid on the second card, $389, was not refunded.

Taylor continued to post negative comments on the Dazzle Yelp page, as well as Gempro’s official Yelp page, stating the company had “stolen thousands of dollars through this diamond scam.”

On Aug. 25, Taylor gave Shuttlesworth the information on the second credit card; Shuttlesworth processed the remaining refund that day.

The negative comments Taylor posted caused Shuttlesworth’s customers to cancel sales, eBay to remove her sales listings and Intuit to cancel the merchant services account she used for processing payments, according to the complaint. In the nine months prior to September, she had about $738,882 in sales via eBay. In September and October, she made zero sales through eBay due to Taylor’s actions.

Shuttlesworth is suing for damages “greater than $75,000.”

“This type of defamation case is uncommon,” said Shuttlesworth’s Boise attorney, Jeremiah Hudson. “It is not generally a case that we bring unless there is some serious damage that is done.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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