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A Michigan-based law firm has filed a purported racketeering class action against Lady Gaga and several entertainment companies, claiming they made false representations that all proceeds from sales of a wristband would go to victims of Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami. The firm, a network known as 1-800-LAW-FIRM, filed the complaint, DeMetsenare v. Germanotta, on behalf of named plaintiff Caitlin DeMetsenare in the Eastern District of Michigan on June 24. The complaint alleges the defendants retained funds from the sale of “Lady Gaga Japan Earthquake Relief Wristbands” despite claims that “all proceeds” would aid victims of the disaster in Japan, which began with the first earthquake on March 11. The lawsuit claims the defendants retained a portion of the first $5 from each individual who ordered from a Lady Gaga Web site, even though charitable donations are nontaxable, and charged an excess amount for shipping the light object. According to Lady Gaga’s “Official Store” page, the wristbands sell for $5 each, plus shipping charges and sales tax. There are also options to make additional donations of up to $100 on top of the original $5. The legal claims include violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, conspiracy to violate RICO, violation of state consumer protection statutes and unjust enrichment. The plaintiff is asking the court for a ruling allowing it proceed as a class action and for an injunction barring defendants from “continuing to operate their fraudulent scheme.” The named plaintiff also seeks several types of damages, including compensatory, consequential, statutory, punitive and treble where applicable. She is asking the court to order the defendants to return all amounts paid for the products to the plaintiff and class members, plus interest, attorney fees and costs. The defendants are Stefani Germonatta, who performs using the name Lady Gaga, and several entertainment companies she conducts business with or through. She’s believed to have a controlling stake in several of the companies, including Ate My Heart Inc.; Mermaid Music Inc., House of Gaga Publishing Inc. The complaint also names Bravado International Group Merchandising Services Inc., Live Entertainment Inc., Live Nation Merchandise Inc. and Universal Music Group Inc. Live Nation spokeswoman Liz Morentin said the company “cannot comment on pending litigation.” The other defendants either did not respond to requests for comment or could not be immediately located for comment. Alyson Oliver, a partner at 1-800-LAW-FIRM, said the case involves a simple fact pattern, but she’s not aware of any other cases against celebrities for allegedly not giving all the money from a charitable endeavor to the charity. “On the Web site and in all the publicity surrounding Lady Gaga’s efforts, statements were made ad nauseum that all proceeds were going to tsunami victims even up through the day we filed,” Oliver said. Oliver said the named plaintiff contacted 1-800-LAW-FIRM with concerns about the wristband sales. Besides the sales tax on each transaction, the shipping charge was $3.99, Oliver said. “If you look at the weight of the wristband, it’s incomprehensible that it costs $3.99 to ship it [through standard U.S. mail service],” Oliver said. If the company made a profit from the wristband sales “then that money shouldn’t be retained because the representations to the public were that all proceeds were going to go to the victims,” Oliver said. be retained because the representations to the public were that all proceeds were going to go to the victims.” Even without discovery, the defendants admitted to 1-800-LAW-FIRM “that everything wasn’t given” to earthquake and tsunami victims. “We think that’s pretty strong evidence,” Oliver said. Using someone’s celebrity status to get people to donate money to victims of a catastrophe is laudable, as long as the money goes to the victims, Oliver said. “But for that to be misrepresented and based on false pretences, they should be called on that,” Oliver said. Sheri Qualters can be contacted at [email protected].

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