SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio man accused of running a web-based company that allegedly ripped off hundreds of customers all over the country was hit with a lawsuit by the Texas State Attorney General.
The lawsuit alleges the website owned by Robert Markum Jr. failed to deliver orders to customers, and when it did deliver, the products were fakes.
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The KSAT Defenders began looking into the company last January when a customer of one of Markum's websites, Camping and Fishing Outlet and Outdoors Online, complained she never got the pink Yeti Rambler and accessories she ordered for Christmas presents.
"Everyone has the standard silver (Yeti Rambler) and the hot commodity are the painted colored ones," the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said in late January. "My son's girlfriend actually wanted one for Christmas, so I went online trying to find a hot pink Yeti and they popped up with a nice great website that looks legit. I always make sure that it looks like a legit company, and it really did."
The woman also liked that the company had a San Antonio address, so she decided to place her order, but her merchandise was never delivered. When she tried contacting the company to find out what happened, she didn't get far.
"I haven't gotten a response, haven't gotten anything. I've emailed them numerous times. Called and sat on hold, nothing," the woman said. "I also convinced my mom to order and she ordered two from them and she's never gotten anything, so she's in the same boat."
Upset, the woman began doing some Google searches and soon realized she was just one of hundreds of unhappy customers. She found numerous complaints online and several negative reviews. The Better Business Bureau had also written a warning about doing business with the websites.
The woman said she felt violated and angry that she got scammed.
"Yes, money, I feel was stolen, but at this point, it's not about the money. It's more the principle of what they're getting away with," the woman said. "They're just ripping people off and getting away with it."
The Defenders ordered nearly $88 worth of items from the website, including the popular Yeti Rambler and some accessories. Weeks later, we got our blue Yeti Rambler, but none of the other items were delivered and the Yeti appeared to be a fake.
Our experience with Outdoors Online was mirrored in hundreds of complaints filed with the Texas Attorney General's office that were obtained by the Defenders.
In late November, Ken Paxton's office hit Markum with a lawsuit, alleging deceptive trade practices.
In the lawsuit, Yeti's Global Brand Protection manager said the company hired a private detective who purchased a tumbler from Markum's site and determined it was counterfeit and not authorized by Yeti. The Austin-based company also stated Markum's site was never an authorized dealer of Yeti products.
The Defenders visited the company's San Antonio addresses listed on the website and in emails to its customers. One location was a shared office space and the other didn't even exist. It was just an empty lot located off Highway 281 outside Loop 1604.
The customer who contacted the Defenders was able to lead us to Markum's home, thanks to a bank statement that showed her transaction with Outdoors Online was run on a credit card machine that was located in a residential home. The home was also the address where Markum lived.
When the Defenders visited the home in May, they found Markum's red Lamborghini driving into the gated property. Later that same day, the sports car left the property, but the driver refused to stop to talk to a reporter and sped off.
Several other attempts to reach Markum for comment were unsuccessful.
Markum's websites have been deactivated for several months. As for Markum's customers, many were able to get their money back when they contacted their banks to have the charges reversed.
In addition to the legal troubles Markum is facing from the lawsuit filed by the state, the Defenders also found through court records that he is named in another lawsuit. That lawsuit was filed by American Express Bank. The suit claims Markum owes the bank $111,991.86 for a credit card bill that hasn't been paid. That suit was also filed in early November.
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