Last week, Michigan Attorney General (AG) Dana Nessel formally launched an investigation under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) into the marketing and business practices of a group of interconnected pest control companies operating under various aliases across Michigan and surrounding states. As part of the investigation, civil subpoenas were served on Kyle Scappaticci, Emily Scappaticci, and Kevin Scappaticci, who allegedly run numerous pest and wildlife control businesses, including Pestway LLC, Michigan Wildlife Removal LLC, and Platinum Wildlife Removal LLC.
The investigation was authorized by an order from Ingham County Circuit Judge James Jamo, after a probable cause was established to prove that the Scappaticcis employ deceptive business practices and provide false or misleading information to consumers about their businesses, often advertising them to be distinct, local, and licensed, when they are not.
According to the AG’s office, there is probable cause to believe the businesses create multiple websites posing as distinct, local pest control companies in order to deceptively boost their search rankings and attract more customers. In reality, these websites are simply masks for the larger interconnected operation run by the Scappaticcis.
Additionally, the AG’s office alleged that the Scappaticcis provide misleading or false information about the interrelation between their businesses, utilizing artificial buyouts between their own entities to negate warranties purchased by customers.
“Consumers should carefully scrutinize businesses they find from casual web searches,” cautioned Nessel. “Not every business proclaiming to be a local, licensed operator lives up to their billing. Scammers and unscrupulous businesses are clever and understand how to game search results and listings to prioritize their services.” She advised the public to research companies thoroughly through resources like the Better Business Bureau before hiring them.
Why It Matters
This investigation serves as an important reminder for both consumers and businesses to be aware of deceptive tactics sometimes used in search engine optimization and digital marketing. It underscores the regulatory risks businesses can face when using deceptive tactics like posing as local companies or making false licensing claims, and reminds businesses to be aware of what constitutes potential consumer protection violations.
Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team
|Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
|Clay Friedman – Co-leader
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
Judy is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement (RISE) practice, based in the Richmond office. She brings experience serving as chair and commissioner of the Virginia State Corporate Commission (VSCC) from 2006 through 2022, which includes regulating the utilities, insurance, banking, and securities industries. She also served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2005-2006.
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
Tim is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, with a primary focus on financial services litigation.
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
Michael is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy, and Enforcement Practice Group. Based out of the firm’s Boston office, Mike has deep experience in litigation, investigations, and other regulatory matters involving state-level regulators and state attorneys general.
Susan is an associate in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group, and focuses her practice on consumer financial services matters. She has defended several of the nation’s largest and most influential financial institutions in individual and class action litigation involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and other consumer privacy statutes. Susan also represents banks, fintechs, and financial services companies in connection with regulatory examinations and investigations brought by the CFPB, state attorneys general, and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
John represents clients in a wide variety of general and complex litigation matters, shareholder disputes, products liability, and privacy claims.
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
Trey is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement practice. His experience includes serving as a summer associate at the firm in 2021.
An experienced litigator, Daniel advises and represents regional, national and international companies, financial institutions and insurers in all facets of business, complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation. He is committed to working with his clients to find creative solutions to meet their needs.
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.