Dating service sues 2 men it accuses of extortion try and 'smear campaign'

August 19, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

An Ellicott City dating service filed suit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court yesterday against two men who it says tried to extort cash and then targeted the service with a "smear campaign" when it failed to pay up.

The Together Dating Service, of the 5000 block of Dorsey Hall Drive, alleges that Owen M. Jones of Arnold and Joseph Patrick Bulko of Annapolis complained to the Maryland attorney general's office, an influential state lawmaker, an Annapolis newspaper and the Better Business Bureau that Together refused to refund Mr. Bulko's $3,995 membership fee.

The $5 million suit alleges that Mr. Bulko never paid the fee.

"Jones and Bulko know that they have maliciously extorted, defrauded and defamed Together and have used extortion, fraud, lies and deceit to exploit Together for their own publicity and profit," the suit alleges.

Neither Mr. Jones nor Mr. Bulko could be reached for comment yesterday.

According to the suit, Mr. Bulko, "after scheming with Jones," went to Together's office Oct. 11 and discussed joining.

Mr. Jones had been a member for four years and was a dissatisfied customer, the plaintiff contends.

Mr. Bulko took home a contract and, although he never paid any money, he called a week later to demand a refund and threatened to contact the attorney general if there was any delay, the suit alleges.

The suit says that on Nov. 17, Mr. Bulko complained to the attorney general and to the Capital, an Annapolis newspaper, which printed an article quoting the men under the headline "Dating Game Turning Sour?" The suit alleges that Mr. Bulko also wrote to complain to the Better Business Bureau on Feb. 14 and to state Del. Michael E. Busch, chairman of the House Economic Maters Committee on March 23.

It alleges that the men also distributed newsletters, such as Raging Smoulder, Dating Daze and Dating Service News, that "contained a series of misrepresentations, untruths and defamatory statements which have damaged Together and its business."

The suit says that Mr. Bulko, "fearful that their extortion and fraud would be discovered" wrote a second letter to the attorney general April 17 denying that he had a financial dispute with Together and admitting that he never purchased a membership.

Ivy Burney, consumer affairs supervisor for the attorney general's office, confirmed that Mr. Bulko filed a complaint about Together. But she said Mr. Bulko never denied in a second letter that he had a financial dispute with Together, or admitted that he did not purchase a membership. "He simply asked us not to address that issue [of a refund] at that time," Ms. Burney said.

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