The Texas attorney general's office filed a fraud lawsuit Monday against a Cedar Hill couple who have a history of attracting consumer complaints.
Frances and John Joseph Stuart first sold college test-prep software in Southern California. Their company attracted more than 100 consumer complaints and shut down.
They opened a company under a new name last year in Coppell, the SAT and ACT Prep Center. Complaints rolled in again, leading to Monday's suit.
But before it was filed, the Cedar Hill couple had begun operating under a third name, this time from a downtown Dallas office.
The attorney general's office is seeking to fine the Stuarts more than $250,000.
Echoing previous Dallas Morning News reports, it says that they:
Had telemarketers falsely tell parents of high school students that their children had expressed interest in the company's software.
Sold dated products from the prominent test-prep company Kaplan at dramatically inflated prices.
Charged people for scholarship-information services they didn't receive and refused to make refunds.
The Stuarts deny the allegations. They "believe the evidence will show that there was no intentional or systematic wrongdoing," said their lawyer, Mark L. Hill.
He said that the Coppell company has quit operating. And he said his clients told him that they had not yet started operating the third business, dubbed the Student Resource Center.
Told that the Better Business Bureau's Dallas office has received four complaints about the latest venture, he replied: "Interesting."
He said he would call back if he learned more about the situation. By Monday evening, he had not contacted The News again.
The lawsuit isn't the only legal woe facing the Stuarts.
Last month, the state comptroller accused their Coppell business of failing to pay about $29,000 in sales tax. The Stuarts dispute that claim.
And John Stuart is facing a criminal charge of failing to register as a sex offender. Upon moving to Cedar Hill, he told police about his 2003 conviction in Arizona for sexual exploitation of a child - but failed to disclose his job in Coppell, as The News reported in April.
The SAT and ACT Prep Center there shared a parking lot with a day-care center and was around the corner from a middle school.
Arizona Department of Public Safety officers making a routine traffic stop found 64 pounds of marijuana in Stuart's car and a videotape containing child pornography, a police report states.
"There was [a] segment of filming of what appeared to be a public bathroom from under a toilet stall," according to the report. "At one point a young male entered a stall and was filmed from under the stall divider while he was urinating into the toilet."
2002: Arizona police arrest John Joseph Stuart. He is accused of transporting 64 pounds of marijuana and a child-pornography video.
2003: Stuart is convicted and sentenced to prison.
2004: Stuart is freed.
2005: He incorporates the College Prep Center in California. It sells software for high school students preparing to take the SAT or ACT. It shuts down after many consumers complain to the Better Business Bureau.
2007: Stuart, wife Frances Stuart and others incorporate the SAT and ACT Prep Center in Nevada.
2008: The SAT and ACT Prep Center starts operating in Coppell. It, too, markets test software to high school students. Stuart registers as a sex offender but fails to disclose his job.
April 2009: The Better Business Bureau says customers around the country are complaining about the Coppell operation. Dallas Morning News reports lead to a consumer-fraud investigation by the Texas attorney general, a sales-tax investigation by the state comptroller and John Stuart's arrest on a charge of failing to properly register as a sex offender.
May: Frances Stuart incorporates another similar business, the Student Resource Center, using a downtown Dallas address.
July 27: The attorney general's office sues the Stuarts.