On the same night as any major boxing match, right as the punches start to fly, a small army of spies fans out across Chicago and cities nationwide. So-called “auditors” for the boxing industry walk into bars and restaurants during Pay-Per-View events with one mission in mind: to bust any business showing the fight that didn’t pay for it.
The auditors aren’t paid unless they allege they found guilty parties, which makes some, including Chicago attorney Lisa Clay, wonder whether that incentives them to lie.
Clay said the process lands hundreds of small businesses in court every year. Many of them are mom-and-pop-type businesses nationwide that stand accused of pirating a fight have one thing in common.
“There is an effort being made to target minorities,” Clay told NBC5 Investigates, “likely because of the language barrier and likely because they are going to be less-informed of the court system and possibly afraid of the court system.”
NBC5 Investigates culled the names of defendants from 2,400 lawsuits filed by major boxing promoters G & G Closed Circuit Events and J & J Sports Productions over the past three years. Both companies are run by the same family out of the same business location in California.
The percentage of cases filed against defendants with Latino names by G & G was 57 percent, or 224 cases. By J & J it was 67 percent, or 2,201 cases. These numbers are significantly above the percentage of Latinos in the United States population, which stands at about 17 percent.
As for businesses that are falsely accused, NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago spoke to business owners from across the country and in Chicago, most of them minority-owned, who said the lawsuits filed by G&G and J&J demanded unreasonably high amounts, anywhere from $10,000 to more than $100,000.
The legal complaints, they said, were followed by phone calls urging them to settle out of court for thousands of dollars. The business owners report use of scare tactics and intimidation, in connection with the push to settle cases quickly for thousands of dollars.
NBC 5 Investigates and Telemundo Chicago asked promoter G & G if it had ever dropped a lawsuit against defendants who offered proof they did not pirate a Pay-Per-View fight.
G&G owner Nick Gagliardi did not answer that question but did call the claims that his company targets minorities and uses scare tactics “completely false.” He said he has heard these kinds of complaints before and that race is not involved in G&G’s decisions to pursue a defendant. Gagliardi referred further questions to his attorney, who did not returned repeated calls and emails for comment.