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The San Diego Better Business Bureau is swamped with complaints about San Diego-based BBG Communications. People complain about outrageous charges for credit card phone calls made from this company's overseas pay phones — $55 for one minute, for example. The BBB gives the company a rating of F. But on Jan. 10, federal judge Anthony J. Battaglia threw out a class action suit against BBG, refused to let aggrieved plaintiffs amend their complaint, and granted BBG's motion to file the documents under seal. BBG's longtime law firm, Sheppard Mullin, argued that the plaintiffs should have sued Switzerland-based BBG Global AG, not San Diego's BBG Communications. The American company is 95% owned by Gregorio and Rafael Galicot, who are Americans. The managing director of the Swiss firm admitted that Gregorio Galicot is on its board (the Swiss Money House publication says he is president), and among numerous things, administrative duties are outsourced to the American company. BBG Communications each day receives phone-billing information from BBG Global. Plaintiffs argued that for these and many other reasons, the American and Swiss companies were alter egos. Sheppard Mullin insisted that the two companies are separate entities, despite all the evidence presented.

Battaglia cited technical reasons why the two firms did not meet all the alter ego tests. The suit was originally heard by Judge Marilyn Huff, who said it should go forward, because, among a number of things, some of the conduct took place in California and those practices were unlawful under California's unfair competition laws. But the case was taken from Huff and given to Battaglia, who sided with BBG Communications.

Says John Mattes, one of two lawyers representing the plaintiffs, "The American justice system reveals it is unable to protect thousands and thousands of hard-working consumers from getting ripped off by a company hiding [behind Swiss protection]." I wrote about this case in my Aug. 10, 2011 column.

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Comments

dwbat Jan. 16, 2012 @ 8:40 a.m.

What makes this price-gouging even more outrageous is that it involved U.S. troops traveling to/from Iraq and Afghanistan via the Leipzig airport. See: http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/10/19/40739.htm Shame on the Swiss government for allowing this to continue, since they also represent the U.S. for diplomatic negotiations/communications with Iran. Obviously, this court ruling needs to be appealed to the SCOTUS.

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:41 a.m.

Yes, but the SCOTUS majority is owned by business just as San Diego courts are. Consumers have little chance to prevail in San Diego courts, but worse, also at the SCOTUS level. Best, Don Bauder

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bbgvictim Jan. 16, 2012 @ 12:35 p.m.

I was one of the plaintiffs for this lawsuit. The implications of Judge Anthony Battaglia's ruling are immense. The message Battaglia sends is that an attorney can make grand larceny safe as well as profitable just by filling in all of the boxes correctly. Battaglia signals that justice and common sense have no place in consumer law. I know the evidence in this case extremely well. It shows beyond question that “the Swiss corporation BBG Global AG” is a total sham and fraud. It is a shadow of a shadow of a shadow. It is a scam matched only by the BBG pay phone scam itself. Battaglia wanted no part of the mountain of evidence that shows that the worldwide business known as BBG is simply the misdoings of the Galicot family that lives in La Jolla and works in San Diego. Instead, his ruling takes every word of Gregorio Galicot, quite possibly the world’s most successful scam artist, at face value. Because Galicot says his businesses BBG Communications in San Diego and “BBG Global” in Switzerland are independent businesses, then they are independent businesses, or so says Battaglia. Reader, please Google “bbg communications” and “fraud.” Has a judge ever treated American consumers with greater contempt?

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2012 @ 3:14 p.m.

I read Battaglia's decision and was appalled. I had read arguments from both sides for my Aug. 10 column. The claim that BBG Communications and BBG Global are two separate companies is outrageous; even testimony from an official of BBG Global threw water on that. The plaintiffs' lawyers went to Switzerland and found the office was tiny -- rather like a brass plater, the tiny banks in offshore tax havens that, in essence, are merely an address. BBG Global admits it farms out administration to the American company. The evidence certainly suggested to me that the Swiss entity was merely a sham -- the kind that is so common in offshore activities. I believe Judge Huff saw that, then was taken off the case supposedly because her case load was so heavy. Was that the reason she was taken off? Battaglia's decision -- and the route by which the case came to him -- should be investigated. Similarly, trillions of dollars are stashed in offshore tax havens and various countries are trying to make headway attacking this tax evasion. The U.S. was dragging its heels on this matter, although under Obama is making some headway. The basic problem in the BBG decision and others like it is that American courts -- especially the Supreme Court -- are owned by monied interests. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat Jan. 16, 2012 @ 6:55 p.m.

Yes, we saw how UNobjective the Supreme Court was, by allowing George Bush (and thus his big-business cronies) to steal the election from Gore (who was actually elected our President).

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:48 p.m.

Yes, I agree that the election was stolen from Gore, and I also believe that Gore would never have gone into Iraq and possibly Afghanistan. Certainly he would not have exacerbated the chasm between rich and poor by slashing taxes of the richest. Best, Don Bauder

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bbgvictim Jan. 16, 2012 @ 7:30 p.m.

Yes, when the evidence is 100 to 0 and the final score is 0 to 100, something is very, very wrong. For now I am doing my best to control my rage at this mockery of justice by telling myself that Battaglia is simply not nearly up to his recent appointment as a federal judge, thereby giving him the benefit of the doubt. During the past year I have read hundreds of pages of nonsense written by BBG lead attorney Fred Puglisi describing a mythical Land of Oz called BBG Global, a land that certainly nobody less believes in than Mr. Puglisi himself. Thank you so much, Mr. Bauder, for writing some plain simple truth about a monstrous San Diego scam company and a stunning miscarriage of justice.

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:50 p.m.

I am not sure Battaglia deserves the benefit of the doubt. Best, Don Bauder

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bbgvictim Jan. 16, 2012 @ 8:05 p.m.

And just in ... In a Texas lawsuit, BBG attorney Fred Puglisi submits the regular BBG Global song and dance to defend the right of Gregorio and Rafael Galicot to carry out the BBG pay phone scam upon US soldiers on the way to war to risk their lives to fight for the safety and freedom of Puglisi and the Galicots. Puglisi and the Galicots -- men of principle. And thanks, Judge Anthony J. Battaglia, for helping to make it all possible.

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:53 p.m.

It will be interesting to see how the Texas judicial system will handle this one. Will it fall for the wholly-fallacious argument that BBG Communications and BBG Global are two separate entities? Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Jan. 17, 2012 @ 6:58 p.m.

Battaglia does not appear to be qualified to hold his position as federal judge. Battaglia attended Mesa College and graduated from USIU and Cal Western School of Law. The plaintiff in the Thomas Jefferson School of Law case claims that major law firms will not interview or hire graduates of schools like Cal Western. If major law firms won't hire guys like Battaglia, why is he working for the government? Battaglia was also a federal magistrate for ten years prior to his appointment. He appears to have handled minor criminal cases as a magistrate. He is not qualified to handle complex cases like BBG Communications. Assigning a case like this to Battaglia is like asking a dentist to perform brain surgery. The man has no clue as to what he is doing.

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Don Bauder Jan. 17, 2012 @ 7:49 p.m.

Yes, Burwell, you are quite right about Battaglia's unimpressive educational background and years as a federal magistrate before getting the appointment to the bench. On the other hand, former Mayor Dick Murphy was dripping with prestigious degrees and was also a judge who was assigned to insignificant cases because of perceived inability to handle the convoluted ones. And despite the excellent academic credentials, he was an inept mayor as well. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Jan. 17, 2012 @ 11:11 p.m.

It's unfortunate that Judge Battaglia gave Mattes and his clients the gesellschaft. The case should have gone to a jury. Perhaps Mattes should ask Department of Justice Fraud Chief Charles LaBella to investigate BBG's business activities. Shepard Mullin could look into the matter and let the DOJ know if there's wrongdoing as many bloggers have alleged. BBG may be, as Ike used to say, as clean as a hound's tooth.

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2012 @ 11:33 a.m.

La Bella? You must be kidding. But La Bella would probably find BBG as clean as a hound's tooth. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Jan. 24, 2012 @ 10:38 p.m.

I second my mensch motion. (Procedures? PROCEDURES? We don' need not stinkin' P R O C E D U R E S !

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