When Eric Matthew Wilson filed for bankruptcy protection in 2005, the Boise resident listed $5,528 in assets. He reported $1,200 in “everyday clothing and shoes,” a $200 wedding ring, 32 music CDs valued at $30 and a $100 watch that Wilson said wasn’t working.
For two years before, Wilson pulled down more than $19,000 a week as one of two owners of a company, Fax.com, that sent out millions of junk faxes to individuals and businesses across the United States and Canada. The practice infuriated fax machine owners who had to pay for paper, ink and electricity to print faxes they neither asked for nor wanted, and it led to numerous lawsuits.
The Federal Communications Commission fined Wilson and co-owner Kevin Katz $5.4 million for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits the use of fax machines to send unsolicited advertisements. And now the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boise has been asked to collect what now sits at $8 million after interest is added.
“We’ll make every effort to collect this debt,” said U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson. She said her office has an attorney who specializes in collections.
Wilson, 47, says he doesn’t owe a penny to the federal government. He contends the debt went away when the government failed to submit a claim as part of his bankruptcy case, which was discharged in February 2007.
“The U.S. Department of Justice has continued to try to collect this debt, unlawfully, for the past 10 years,” Wilson wrote in an April submission in U.S. District Court of Southern California, where the case was originally filed.
Earlier this year, Wilson said he received monthly bills for $325, based on his ability to pay. He again denied that he was liable for the payments, but said even if he was, it “is not going to come close to paying off the amount claimed to be owed.”
He noted that interest alone would add another $365,000 — $1,000 a day — to the total this year.
Fax.com told potential customers that it had a database of 16 million fax numbers and that advertisements could be sent to specific states or cities or arranged by zip code. The company used automatic dialers that operated 24 hours a day, called numbers at random and then sent the numbers to a database when it detected the tones signaling a fax number.
In November 2004, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office obtained an order barring Fax.com, headquartered in Orange County, Calif., from conducting business in Idaho. The company paid a $5,000 civil penalty and attorney fees.
The State of California won an $8 million judgment against Wilson and Katz, while Indiana obtained a $1.25 million judgment. They pressed cases against the pair for violation of state statutes. They also remain unpaid.
Wilson and his wife, Deena Lumia, divorced in 2003. However, they moved to Meridian together in December 2004 and later arranged for a $574,000 home to be built outside Middleton in Lumia’s name.
The trustee in the bankruptcy case accused the couple of divorcing so assets could be placed in Lumia’s name and could not be touched by the judgments brought against Wilson. Both Wilson and Lumia denied the allegation.
The latest filing in the case lists Wilson’s address as 2313 W. Bella St. in Boise. The home is owned by the Lumia Family Trust, according to online records from the Ada County Assessor’s Office.
There was no telephone listing for either Wilson or Lumia. No one answered the door at the home on Tuesday afternoon. A message sent to Wilson’s email address was not answered.