Jawa Threatens Blog That Accused It Of Cramming, Gets Blog Taken Down By ISP

from the intimidation dept

The JAWA story continues. Yesterday, we posted about accusations from Verizon Wireless that JAWA was effectively "cramming" premium SMS charges onto users' bills, which came about following an investigation (and eventual lawsuit) by Texas regulators. The blog AZDisruptors.com has been highlighting some of the accusations against JAWA while most of the press had kept quiet on it. However, it appears the folks at JAWA don't like that. They sent a cease-and-desist to the operator of the blog (embedded below), Hamid Shojaee, that makes all sorts of accusations against him; claiming defamation, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with business relations and criminal harassment.

The letter also, oddly, accuses Shojaee of being a cyebersquatter, despite that having nothing whatsoever to do with what's being disputed here, and Shojaee clearly explains why he has the various domains he has. As for the specific legal threats against Shojaee, it's hard to see how the latter claims have any merit. The defamation claim is the key one, but considering that both the Texas attorney general and Verizon Wireless's lawsuits against JAWA seem to make similar claims, it's difficult to see the defamation claim standing. On top of that, since JAWA's CEO Jason Hope is clearly a public figure, the standard for defamation is much higher and, almost certainly, was not met by Shojaee. I'm guessing that JAWA wouldn't even want to get into the discovery phase of any such lawsuit -- meaning this threat letter feels a lot like a SLAPP. Arizona has an anti-SLAPP law... but it is very limited and almost certainly doesn't apply here, unfortunately (all the more reason for a federal anti-SLAPP law).

Separately, JAWA's lawyers contacted AZDisruptors.com's host, SquareSpace, and registrar, GoDaddy, demanding the site be taken down for these reasons. Ridiculously, SquareSpace complied -- without even contacting Shojaee first. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. First of all, SquareSpace has no legal requirement to takedown a site upon accusations of defamation. Section 230 protects it against liability in those circumstances. But, even more to the point, the fact that it would take down the site without first even hearing from Shojaee is really problematic and suggests that SquareSpace should not be trusted as a hosting provider.

Either way, Shojaee is fighting back. He got SquareSpace to put the site back up and has responded to JAWA's accusations against him with a lawyer, who seems well equipped to respond to such bullying. I've embedded the response letter below, but just a snippet:
Your letter, its accusations, and its conclusions are shocking. And you are wrong in every respect...

[...]

I can't close a letter without pointing out the obvious: your letter, instead of addressing Mr. Shojaee's accurate claims about Mr. Hope's business activities, maligns his character and accuses Mr. Shojaee of "fail[ing] to disclose your true motives to your readers." You then go on to list a number of web domains that Mr. Shojaee legally owns in connection with a legitimate business purpose.

The idea that Mr. Shojaee has done anything to apologize for is laughable. It is Mr. Hope who has built a company based on deception; it is Mr. Hope who has illegally used technology to bilk consumers out of millions; it is Mr. Hope who has chosen to interfere with my client's business...
Sounds like the attempt at intimidation isn't likely to work... Oh, and in the meantime, the press is starting to pick up on the story as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:46am

    Picking a fight with a blogger like Shojaee seems like a particularly stupid move. His blog was taken down for a few hours, and now they have an irate investigative reporter to deal with. They have also given Shojaee a pretty solid defamation case of his own.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:54am

    I think he may have a problem explaining why he was trying to tag JAWA together with a phone code that did not belong to the company. When you make charges like this, you need to be really confident that everything matches up. If the data doesn't match up, no matter how much you think it is a scam, you will have a hard time surviving in court on factual errors.

    The ISP should know better than to take down the blog to start with. The blogger likely should find a new host that won't give in to any random legal letter in the door.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Chemical Ali, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:08am

    The stupidest move of all was calling Hamid a criminal! A very quick search (and some super interesting reading) on http://www.dirtsearch.org , enter in Jason Hope in Arizona... and see the LONG and DISTINGUISHED list of past CRIMINAL (and a ton of civil)(including failure to pay child support) charges this guy has faced. Apparently (and unfortunately) it looks like he has managed to beat them all... and now we can see how he uses these legal strong arm tactics to cower his victims.

     

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  4.  
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    Matt (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:08am

    I had one of these show up on my bill and I reported it and had it removed before my payment was due for that month. Sprint was very helpful removing the charge and blocking future charges from that specific "service".

    Sounds like this Hamid guy could have saved a bunch of money if he paid attention to his bill. A $10 increase is something that should be fairly noticable if you are paying attention.

    That said I'd certainly like to have the option block any third party from billing me through my cell phone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:26am

    Re:

    Exposing this helps quite a number of people though...

    I would rather have it that this is exposed to assist those that may not be as apt at fighting against such an underhanded scheme.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    another ac, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    That said I'd certainly like to have the option block any third party from billing me through my cell phone.


    I think a montly payment should be always opt-in, it is that simple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    coldbrew, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:31am

    Hoth?

    Jawas live on Hoth, right?

    Scum and villainy, indeed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Randy (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Re: Hoth?

    No, no. Hoth was the ice world. Jawas were on Tatooine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    "you will have a hard time surviving in court on factual errors."

    "Errors" are actually a defense in his case. Because this is a public figure, he needs to intentionally make falsehoods for it to be defamation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:50am

    Re:

    I worked for a short time with a company that made millions doing something similar with credit cards. The prey on people not reading every line of their bill.

    You can blame people for not reading their bill, but the scams catch mostly the elderly and the very young - that is not by accident. It is pretty underhanded when you see it in action.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Re: Hoth?

    Great point, actually.

    These guys need to get a lid on this before it catches the attention of George Lucas or they will be on the wrong end of a lawsuit from Lucasfilms.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    I spent 10 minutes a while ago trying to find a way to do it on Sprint's site but never found one. I decided to get help with their contact form and the rep who emailed me back "permanently blocked all third party services/shortcodes from telephone numbers" on my account. Here's the text of my request:

    Form: Ask A Question-Manage
    Topic: Billing/Payment
    SUB Topic: General Inquiry
    =====================================
    Original Question: block 3rd party billing
    Question: How do I block 3rd parties from billing or
    charging "subscription fees" to my account through SMS services?
    ====================================

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Matt (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re:

    I can agree to an extent about not reading every line of a bill but in my experience a cell phone bill is not something that changes that frequently (maybe I'm the odd one in that respect) and a ten dollar change is rather large change in the total.

    Credit cards bills I can see missing things is easier (though a lot of people would be a lot better off if they paid attention to their money)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Matt (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re:

    Awesome, thats going on my todo list

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    FormerAC (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    What service?

    Did a little reading this morning on the issue and one question I cannot find an answer to is this ...

    What text message service does Jawa claim to provide?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    "A $10 increase is something that should be fairly noticable if you are paying attention."

    Says someone with intimate knowledge of Hamid's other charges that might contain perfectly legal and wanted 10$ charges per month.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    SUNWARD (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    squarespace

    acted badly. Shojaee should just have everything on godaddy.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Doug D (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Keep in mind he says that it's on Page 38 of his bill. That's a big bill so $10 probably isn't going to register on his radar one way or the other. I used to manage cell phone accounts for my company and we would occasionally see these types of charges. The users would claim ignorance and we'd call to get them cancelled. If I weren't reading the bills though, the $10 never would have been noticed in the $500-1000 a month we pay for our international sales reps. How many companies are paying these charges every month because they don't have someone reading the 1000 page phone bills?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:17am

    Reinstate death penalty, get rid of Jason Hope, refund all customers, sue the carriers, profits go to charity. There's no debate to be had here, sorry, Jason Hope clearly doesn't feel like hiding the fact that he's parasitic scum. When you find cancerous cells, you kill them.

    I have a strange feeling that he's going to get away with it and retain a large portion of his fortune. People like this make me lose all hope in humanity, it's truly disgusting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Re: What service?

    They don't.

    That's part of the point. According to the original article (and a few other I have read) they send the messages to get the charge on your bill and then DO NOTHING. They don't actually provide you with anything.

    They don't currently have anything on their website indicating that they have a text messaging service that provides you with nothing for $10 per month. I'm not sure how to word that and make it sound pleasing, so perhaps their PR department decided to not advertise it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:21am

    Re: squarespace

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Re: squarespace

    Shojaee should just have everything on godaddy.com



    No. GoDaddy has a very, very, VERY long history of (a) not taking action against even the most egregious spammers while (b) taking arbitrary and rash action against customers who have merely irritated someone or exposed corruption. As a result, GoDaddy is an exceedingly poor choice for registration or hosting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Re:

    Who are you kidding.

    Fine Jason Hope a couple million dollars (he can sell a car for it), leave the carriers alone (they give the government access to wiretap without a warrant), make Jawa roll in changes to their policies over the next 5 years (wouldn't want to stop them from fleecing customers quickly), and tell the customers (you know, the people hurt by this) that they can wait on hold with their carrier for 40 minutes to get a refund for the charge on the latest bill but they can't get a refund for anything earlier than that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re:

    Oh - and pay a class action lawyer 3 million dollars - for...well...just make up a reason why.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Turbo, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re: Hoth?

    Ironic that Jason Hope's lawyers are accusing Mr Shojaee of infringing on trademarks when the word Jawa (used in English) is something George Lucas made up.

    It's also already trademarked by a Czech company.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're probably right as to what's going to happen, plus or minus a few details. I was just trying to say what SHOULD happen. People will look at what WILL happen and will think that being a scum is viable (and easy) and it will encourage them to do the same.

    Shoot that fucker in the head, a small price to pay for a sharp decline in the number of scams. Really, is Jason Hope so precious that we can't sacrifice him for the greater good? We shot Gandhi and nobody seems to be bothered by it.

    Karma Police...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:34am

    Re: What service?

    You're asking a logical question and demanding a logical answer? Sorry, this is not the kind of world we live in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Really, is Jason Hope so precious that we can't sacrifice him for the greater good?"

    Have you read his blog on cars? We really need this guy. Perhaps we can let him scam just a little bit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: squarespace

    GoDaddy is a rotting sack of monkey dung, and their commercials blow dobermans. As does their management. I hope they die and burn in hell.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    High On The Mountain, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If Jason Hope were to die... how would he be able to enjoy the 100,000 Square Foot home is is having built??

    Maybe they could add a 3 Story Gothic Mausoleum, next to the 3 Story Night Club currently in the residence! Mourners can zip line over the IMAX theater, and over the basketball and tennis courts to pay their respects!

    Please text the word "MORTGAGE" to 72267 (SCAMS) to help pay for Jason Hope's new house. Users will be charge $9.99 per month.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, he needs to die. Like yesterday. Hopefully in such pain and torment that he screams until his lungs burst, and he drowns in the blood. That would be glorious! I'd buy the video, too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    THAT's the 'service' they offer! It's like a charity... for the low price of $10 per month, you can make a filthy pig richer than he already is! Without knowing it!

    Seriously, I'm not kidding: shoot the fuck. I'm in Canada and I don't have a gun, but I'm assuming there are lots of people with guns in Arizona. Nobody's going to sue you for shooting Hitler's long lost brother. Seriously, I'll chip in to buy the bullet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:09am

    Love the response, but I would have been more conservative in my word count. Something along the line of Arkell V. Pressdram should work:

    http://www.nasw.org/users/nbauman/arkell.htm

    We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell's attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And maybe they could construct a three story public restroom, with all the waste mains being aggregated into a three foot main directly into the mausoleum, thus ensuring a burial appropriate to his station.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Hoth?

    Jawas were on Tatooine.

    Yes, but aside from the confusion of the name of the planet, he was right...Jawas were from Tatooine, of which there was a particular town called Mos Eisley which was the hive of scum and villainy (at least according to Obi-Wan "Old Ben" Kenobi.)

    Jawas weren't particularly vile, but they were considered scum. They tended to be vultures, which would scavenge for stuff that didn't necessarily belong to them, and tended to sell broken droids to unsuspecting consumers, but most folks knew what they were buying so it wasn't necessarily a scam, but more of a gray/black market of stolen goods. Unlike this company which is obviously a scam.

    Darn, my Star Wars nerd-card is showing. I'll go hide now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If only there was an afterlife for these people to get what they deserve. Unfortunately that's not the case, so we have to punish these people while we still can! Or take a chill-pill. Or both? I do like the idea of hiring a few civil engineers and architects to design a building in the sole purpose of messing with someone's resting place. Feels like a huge waste of time, but also a source of enjoyment for many. Like Jersey Shore with more ethics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Re: What service?

    Sorry, this is not the kind of world we live in.

    This is precisely the world we live in -- when people realize they are getting royally screwed by this character, no amount of logic will be able to keep him out of trouble -- it takes a little time before we start collecting the brooms and pitchforks and run these guys out of town on the rail.

    The amazing thing here is that when the light is shown on this cockroach, he doesn't run -- he makes a fool of himself and turns himself into a huge target for legal proceedings. He could learn a few things from his kind -- disappearing when the light turns on is the only way to survive what is coming, and he hasn't quite mastered that trick. Cockroaches that don't scatter don't live very long, and I suspect that Mr. Hope is going to experience the legal system up-close-and-personal as the wheels of justice start turning (they are slow to start, but they tend to crush anyone who stands in their way once they get going.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    rtwelve, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

    Here's where some of that money Jawa makes goes

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:16pm

    So a blog does all the initial investigative journalism and the MSM only copies and picks up on the blog when it seems safe to do so. The MSM can't take any risks I suppose, and they don't do any real investigative journalism (if they do it, they only do it after someone else has already done enough legwork and took all the risks and paid for the costs necessary to take those risks to show that the story has promise), despite the fact that they heavily exploit copy'right' law that's supposed to allegedly help them with the necessary costs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: What service?

    Bah, a lot of people who caused the financial crisis in the US got away with it, slightly bruised up after landing with a golden parachute. Some of them now work for the government. Cockroaches are hard to kill... I strongly recommend everyone to watch Inside Job, which takes a hard look at how little the legal system really cares about financial crimes. Murder upsets a jury a lot more than fraud, apparently.

    Why does Fox News get away with lying and propaganda every single day? Sorry, but this world is messed up, and this blog proves it almost every day. Believe me I wish it wasn't so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    Thomas Peterson (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:49pm

    Json Hope

    I appreciate your story on Jawa and Jason Hope. So many of us who live in Arizona have known for quite some time that Jason Hope is a professional con-artist who has been brought up on criminal fraud charges before. Finally, it's all slowly coming out.
    Check out this article from awhile back when Hope was brought up on fraud and scheming charges..(it's long, but worth the read)
    http://www.rwf-ent.com/entrada/CAI/Index.cfm

    If you go to www.dirtsearch.org and type in "Jason Hope, Arizona" you will see his rap sheet.

    Also, he claims he worked at Oracle for 7 years in California.....it's highly unlikely. He was busy with too many court hearings in Arizona. He has been fooling the entire tech community for quite some time..I hope you or someone else can help uncover it all.

    Thanks Again,

    TP

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Meg, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:56pm

    A sucker punch to the good guys....

    I am in the mobile marketing industry, and it is disreputable actions such as these that make my job even harder. When my industry receives negative press, it is that much harder to gain the trust and respect of businesses that I want to HELP. The general public is wary and needs to be educated on how mobile marketing works. But if people are afraid, or sincerely worried they will be subject to a scam, my industry suffers.
    I urge all of you who are aware of this scandal, to know that mobile marketing in it's true form is a helpful tool for businesses and consumers alike. An honest and exceptional company will guard privacy and educate you about mobile marketing...
    Also, due to the nature of these charges, it would not surprise me if they are facing potential fines of hundreds of millions of dollars. This fact alone, the exorbitant fines that accompany fraudulent practices, keep the good guys always making sure they are in compliance with best practices and stay up to date on any changes. Otherwise, we have basically committed the equivalent of medical malpractice.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    techy, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:09pm

    Re: Re:

    Technically, yes you are suppose to opt-in, but they found a way to connect the dots around an opt in. If a user had to register in any way, they could have elaborately concocted a program that would link info and bill you. From what I read, this was a complex job, that even the carriers did not pick up on until now.... they knew exactly how to manipulate the system

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Yes Hamida made it to thedirty.com wow nice picture

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 9:15am

    Yes Hamid made it to thedirty.com wow nice picture

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Brian Schroth (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Re: A sucker punch to the good guys....

    The marketing industry doesn't have a reputation to soil. Everyone hates marketing, and always will.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    RobShaver, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    Legal Question + A Suggested Action We Can All Take

    If I send a registered letter to my phone provider which states that this is my legal declaration that, as a result of various scams that have come to light, I will not accept any third party ancillary charges placed against my account, no matter what the source and that I expect the provider to honor this requirement, would this carry any weight in court should the occasion arise to refute any such charges?

    I realize that the provider would not likely honor such a request but the fact that such a request had been made should be a factor.

    Also, if a appreciable fraction of the provider's customers sent them such a letter, perhaps tens of thousands, would that not send a signal as well?

    Who wants to draft up such a letter and make it available to all of us to send?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    Re:

    Looks like the SEO "geniuses" behind the whitewashing of Jason Hope's search reputation online (the dozens of blogs) have decided to go after Hamid Shojaee's reputation. Don't be fooled by stupid BS like the thedirty.com article!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Local AZ Media finally reporting story on TV

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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