A merchant cash advance company filed suit in Manhattan federal court Friday against a former contractor the company alleges seized control of its website and other proprietary properties as part of an extortion attempt.
Simply Funding is seeking injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the former independent contractor, Mark Sodon, who was paid a $10,000-a-month retainer by the company beginning in April 2017. An online profile that appears to be Sodon’s claims he consults with merchant services and alternative business lending companies.
Simply Funding claims to be just such an organization. It provides small businesses merchants advance payments on future sales in exchange for a percentage of merchants’ daily receivables, according to the complaint.
According to the company, Sodon was terminated Dec. 4 after it was discovered he’d “surreptitiously” took away Simply Funding’s principal’s email and online password account manager privileges. The complaint alleges that Simply Funding discovered Sodon had taken control of the company’s registered domain names through the company’s GoDaddy account.
Sodon went so far as to have web traffic attempting to go to www.simplyfunding.com redirected to www.simplymca.com, which, according to the complaint is one of the domain names stolen.
An initial search for Simply Funding brought the New York Law Journal to the simplymca.com account. Later, after Sodon was reached by email and phone to the lawsuit against him, that account, as well as simplyfunding.com, appeared to be no longer accessible.
The complaint goes on to allege Sodon blocked the company’s access to its own social media accounts. When the company demanded access, Sodon allegedly refused to provide the information unless he was provided “money and other benefits to which he is not entitled.”
Simply Funding also alleges Sodon illegally disclosed confidential information to a competitor service. On Oct. 24, the company claims Sodon emailed several files containing proprietary information directly to the competitor using his Simply Funding email address. The information included an internal memo summarizing the company’s underwriting process, information exported from the customer database it keeps, revenues and other sensitive financial data.
The company claims it did not authorize Sodon to transfer the information. Sodon allegedly also breached his noncompete clause by consulting with and rendering services to the same competitor company.
In a text exchange with Simply Funding’s principal, Sodon allegedly threaten to shutdown the company’s website and interfere with its existing customers if he wasn’t paid $18,000 the company claims he is not entitled to.
“Technically, I can turn things off right now,” the complaint alleges Sodon’s text message read. “And what are you gonna do? Sue me, get a court order for temporary relief instruct [sic] me to turn things back on while we litigate, maybe win, but maybe not.”
The complaint claims the text message continued, “Then, I turn back around and tell everybody about what happened while contacting every merchant to explain to them how a cash advance really works including debtors with confessions of judgment filed.”
Sodon declined to comment. He did not respond to a follow-up request for clarity on whether he was responsible for the websites no longer being accessible and a request for confirmation that he indeed send the text messages as the company claims.
Cullen and Dykman of counsel Nicholas Faso represents Simply Funding. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The company filed a temporary restraining motion with U.S. District Judge Judge Kenneth Karas, who was assigned the case.