Is Jason Hope (JAWA/Cylon) A Scam?

Tyler HurstValley PR Blog

jason-hope-scottsdale1

(UPDATE 5/3/2011: Today I was asked if I would consider removing two posts from Valley PR Blog in exchange for $1000. While the person claiming to be Susan Richardson at susan.richardson80@yahoo.com did NOT specify which two posts, it seems reasonable to assume she was referring to my two posts about Jason Hope, as they are the only two related posts by me on this site.

While I won’t claim that my silence couldn’t possibly be bought, $1000 seems like a paltry sum compared to the millions Jason Hope has “earned” through his alleged scams over the years. If I’m going to sell out, it sure as hell be enough money to retire with.

Lavidge never did tell me when and how much Hope donated to the Red Cross as part of fundraising efforts in Japan, but Hope continues to claim to support local charities like the Greater Scottsdale Boys & Girls Club. While I’m sure any Boys and Girls Club could use the money, I wonder if they know exactly where those “donations” are coming from.)

(UPDATE 4/3/11: The Phoenix Business Journal has joined AZCentral in parroting much of what’s already been said about the feud between Hamid Shojaee and Jason Hope. Oh, and The Lavidge Company has so far been unable to give me the exact amount of funds Hope pledged to support Japan, or any confirmation that the money has been sent.)

Text messaging scams suck. Because so many of us pay our cell phone bills without too much scrutiny, we seldom catch them until we’ve been charged for months. And because there’s nothing illegal about preying on consumer laziness when reading fine print, most cell phone companies don’t alert you to such extraneous charges.

You’d think this kind of operation would be handled overseas, but local boy Jason Hope of JAWA has been accused of running a home-grown text messaging scam right here in Scottsdale. Hope’s JAWA isn’t some small startup operating out of someone’s basement, as Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane lauded them extensively in his latest State of The City speech, commenting:

Jawa is a perfect example of our growing tech-sector.

Jawa is located just off the Loop 101 and Raintree Drive, and their story is the kind that keeps me optimistic about Scottsdale.

They are in the mobile communication technology business, and as you may know, that’s a pretty good business to be in these days. It certainly is for Jawa, who quadrupled their workforce in 2010, growing from 50 to 200 employees.

They expanded their Scottsdale office from 10,000 to 50,000 square feet – and they plan to double that next year.

While certainly a business success story, Jawa also is impressive because charitable giving is part of their core business model.

Each month, Jawa makes a monetary donation to a different organization, based off nominations from company employees. Last year they donated nearly $60,000 to local charities like the Boys & Girls Clubs, Ronald McDonald House, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Jawa founder and CEO Jason Hope is with us here this evening – thank you for being here, Jason.
Courtesy of AZRepublic.com

Hamid Shojaee of AZ Disruptors has broken down what he believes to be legitimate claims against Hope, and found that he was victim of a text messaging scam on his own, with around $100 unknowingly charged to his cell phone bill over the past few months. AT&T refunded his fees, but if you’re like most of the rest of us, you probably don’t scrutinize your cell phone bill all that much.

Regardless of Hope’s guilt or innocence, this brings up a larger ethical problem in the PR world. Hope’s website lists Dawn* Anne Robertson of The Lavidge Company as their PR rep. (A call and email to Robertson went unanswered Monday morning.)

Do PR companies like Lavidge, who include “We accept responsibility and accountability, and we believe that integrity is our truest asset” as part of their company philosophy, have a responsibility to report suspected unethical or illegal activity, and/or disassociate themselves from a company dealing in allegedly nefarious schemes? I’m not talking about strictly illegal activity, but rather anything that’s less than above the board.

A quick Google search shows nothing but a press release announcing Hope pledging funds to Japan (man, they have quite a distribution list), but only one response to any sort of scam allegations.

While I’m sure PR 101 will tell you that whitewashing negative allegations with lots of good press is a smart move, I can’t help but be a little suspicious of such a ridiculous shotgun approach. Nearly every result from the first THREE pages of search for Lavidge and Hope all point to the same release, which should raise red flags for anyone familiar with SEO tactics.

As long as the checks clear, do PR companies, who obviously deal with reputations for a living, have any sort of obligation to NOT whitewash negativity? Is there a line anywhere?

There absolutely should be. This type of alleged scam is the same crap that drove us into a recession, with too many people taking advantage of loopholes, naïveté and plain old ignorance when it comes to technology or financial matters. Hell, Aol still makes a ton of money from people still paying for dial up while simultaneously subscribing to a broadband connection.

As those who understand what’s going on, we owe it to those that don’t to at least warn them of the lengths people will go to scam them. I believe we should call out any business accused of such unethical behavior, so at least people are aware of such charges. What people do with that information is up to them.

Regardless, I’m definitely going to check my cell phone bill a little harder this month.

Jawa denies any wrongdoing in regards to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the State of Texas and Verizon Wireless.

I changed the headline after this was posted because my first wasn’t descriptive enough.

*I have no idea how I messed up the Lavidge rep’s name, but I did. Her first name is Anne. I have a friend named Don. Maybe that’s why. Weird. Anyway, Anne Robertson is her name, and she still hasn’t called back, but I did receive a call from Lavidge offering information on other suits against Jason Hope/JAWA, all of which have ruled in Hope’s favor. And they wanted me to know I had listed their rep’s name incorrectly.

Tyler HurstIs Jason Hope (JAWA/Cylon) A Scam?