The Untold Story of Fronteer Directory Yellow Pages II!

The Untold Story of Fronteer Directory Yellow Pages II!

By Steve William Sansonimg0041.jpg

 

The Fronteer Directory Company was born out of Minnesota by a man named Albert Holtan Jr. and sold to McCloud Yellow Pages for $22 million. Before the sale of the Minnesota directories, Holtan formed a company in Las Vegas in 1994 and started to compete against Sprint Yellow Pages published by R.H. Donnelley.

 

I (Steve Sanson) was recruited in 1998 to start up an aggressive outside collection campaign in an effort to recover about $1.3 million dollars. This was bad debt of uncollected dollars that was tossed back and forth from one collection company after another with limited or no results.

 

In my efforts, I brought in about $5,000 to $20,000 per week from business owners, doing a grassroots campaign, requesting that they pay on their past advertisement.

I was reported to the news as an individual who was strong-arming business owners to gain the dollars owed. But that wasn’t the case; everybody had their own viewpoint. My mission was to have each individual fulfill their contractual obligation.

 

Three months passed by, and I was promoted from outside collections to Credit/Legal Manger. The Credit Department had no policy, bylaws or guidance. It was a free-for-all, and I had to build this department from the ground up. In addition, I had to learn how Small Claims Court worked in Clark County.

 

After building this department, I turned it into a cash cow. Exhausting all legal avenues to obtain the dollars owed from all advertisers, I turned this company into zero-tolerance when money was owed. I was in charge of the front end and the back end of the company when it comes to collecting money.

 

On the front end, I had given advertisers credit terms, pulling their credit reports, business license, corporate charter, fictitious names, etc. On the back end, I had my assistant, Maximiliane Gossett; follow up with a phone call, sending out letters of demand, filing summons and complaints, mediating payment plans, and filing writs of execution to levy bank account and wages. We filed abstracts of judgments, recorded liens against parcels, filed examination of judgment debtors, orders to show cause, bench warrants for contempt of court using Sheriff Civil to make an arrest, and proof of claims on all bankruptcy filings.

 

At times, the office of Vital Records was checked as part of skip searching to make sure that there were no death certificates on file. I Negotiated and signed retainer agreements with law firms to handle money that was more than the small claims limitation.

I have filed an estimated 2,300 cases in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Pahrump and Boulder City combined. With a 99 percent success ratio on cases won in front of judges and referees. Collections were in an estimated amount of $20 million in revolving accounts and $4 million in bad debt.

 

The Fronteer Directory Company always sold advertisement for a year before the publication year. The Fronteer Directory used to sell advertisement for four publications within one year, breaking the city up into four areas: Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, and Northwest. The book had a red cover with a companion mini cellular phone book and a Talk line with recorded business information.

 

In 2000, the Fronteer Directory went to semiannual publication. Two phone books per year, one phone book dedicated to the South and the other for the North in a purple color phone book indicating that they serve “the entire Las Vegas Valley.” Both the cellular phone book and the Talk line were dropped from the sales program.

 

In 2001, the Fronteer Directory went from a semiannual phone book to an annual phone book, still with its purple cover, but only distributed once per year between the months of January and March and made representations that 600,000 to 650,000 books would be printed and distributed within the Las Vegas market. Books were delivered in Boulder City, Henderson, North Las Vegas and Las Vegas Township.

 

There is a statement that appeared on the spine and cover of the book: “Serving the Entire Las Vegas Valley”. The phone book, then small enough to fit in the car and stack on top of the much larger Sprint phone book.

 

At this time, the delivery project was taken away from the Review-Journal and given to the sales representatives to handle.

 

The Fronteer Directory also bought out the only Spanish directory in town, making the Fronteer Directory the only bilingual telephone directory in the Las Vegas Market with the blessing from the Latin Chamber of Commerce.

 

The Fronteer Directory also had sales representatives going to the schools teaching children how to use the phone directory. Representatives of the directory were active in all chambers of commerce, participated at the conventions, the company offered prizes for the sales representatives to help motivate and improve sales.

 

In 2002, the color of the phone book changed to yellow with everything else remaining the same. In 2004, the owner, Albert Holtan, decided that he would not deliver the phone book in Boulder City, but he did not delete the map of Boulder City from the front of the phone book. In 2005, the color of the phone book changed to black, but everything else remained the same.

 

In 2006, the Fronteer Directory sales representatives were selling for the upcoming year. Morale was at an all-time low. Holtan did not hire any more seasonal sales representatives as he had done in the prior years.

 

There were no appointment setters to support sales representatives, no convention participation, there were no sales meetings, and absolutely no money was put back into the business.

 

The sales representatives advised Holtan several times that advertisers are demanding an online presence. Holtan told the representatives to tell the customers that the company was actively working on an online presence. But there was never any intention to make this a reality.

 

After the closing of the 2007 publication, sales were down; there was no one making sales for any Spanish advertisements, and no new sales representatives — other than the original four representatives Victoria Adams, George Chehade, Larry Kush, and Alan Quale — were hired to cover the entire Las Vegas market.

 

The owner’s son, Timothy Holtan, was in charge of National Sales and that sale also declined, because his son was constantly going back and forth to Minnesota to develop another publication called Pioneer Yellow Pages.

 

By the end of March this year, the sales representatives became concerned because there were no phone directories to be delivered. When the representatives asked about the printing of the directory, Holtan put blame on the printer, Liberty Press in Utah, by saying that they are backlogged or ran out of paper.

 

The real reason is that there was no order placed to print the directories. Several sales representatives confronted Holtan and asked him if the business was closing and Holtan said no, stating that there will be another publication for 2008.

 

In April, Holtan had a meeting with me and George Chehade, sales manager for the company, and told us that he wanted us to purchase the company by the way of investors. Several investors wanted federal tax returns, balance sheets, corporate records, but Holtan did not want to provide any of these documents.

 

When asked about liabilities, Holtan stated that the liability was only for the 2007 printing bill with Liberty Press in the amount of $273,000, which he said he would pay once he receives $1.2 million from the investors.

 

Holtan stated that he would take the $1.2 million and print the full amount of the directories and pay for the distribution. We asked if we could contact the printer directly and Holtan said absolutely not and that it would have to go through him or no deal. No investors wanted to purchase the business.

 

They claim that Holtan is hiding something, and they did not want to do business like that.

 

Two friends said that they wanted to invest and also believed in me and Chehade and they wanted to move forward. One of the investors, Paul Murad, a Las Vegas developer wanted to take a loan out for $1.5 million. The bank turned down Murad because they stated that Holtan was claiming a lot of personal expenses on his federal tax return for several years, placing the business in a negative cash flow.

 

Murad still wanted to move forward with the purchase, and he stated that he would take responsibility for the $273,000 for the 2007 printing bill and the printing and distribution of the remaining balance of the directory and Holtan said no deal.

In May, advertisers were calling and complaining and delivery drivers were frustrated that they had no work. A truck load of 2007 publications rolled in, the normal run per truck is 200,000; this run was 50,000 directories short.

 

When the representatives asked about this, Holtan stated that it would be on the next run. George Chehade noticed that the cover and the spine had the words “Serving the Entire Las Vegas Valley” deleted. When he approached Holtan, he stated that he “didn’t want to mislead people, because he doesn’t deliver in Boulder City.” But we hadn’t delivered in Boulder City for the past two years, and those words were on prior publications.

 

We later found out that Holtan’s statements to us that “there is no money owed to the printer other than the 2007 printing bill” was false. We found out directly from the printer that $753,000 for the 2006 printing bill in addition to the $273,000 for the 2007 publication was owed at that time.

 

After the publication was delivered by the end of May or beginning of June, Holtan instructed me to close the business down. Instead of calling a meeting, Holtan talked to each individual on the phone and told them the bad news.

 

When asked about the additional 500,000 publications, Holtan stated that he would print them in July. Holtan wanted me to transfer all phone lines that were needed to my home and relocate the computers so that I would be in a position to resume collections and bill the advertisers for the 2007 directories.

 

All sales staff and office personnel expressed their opinions indicating that it was unethical of Holtan to continue billing customers on a 650,000 distribution basis and only printing 150,000. They told me it was not in my best interest to help him with this practice.

 

Unfortunately, I gave Holtan the benefit of the doubt and transferred the collection of the business to my home office. Holtan kept me on as an employee, although he promised that he would give me a percentage of the receivables. Everyone told me that with his love for money he would never sign any agreement giving me a percentage.

Holtan got rid of another business he owned called Square One Publishing out of Minnesota; a business he used for accounts receivables and payables for Fronteer Directory Company with one employee working out of her home.

 

If someone called the phone line and asked about more publications, Holtan requested me to lie and tell them that more publications are being distributed.

 

Holtan did not want any of the advertisers to know about the shortage of the phone books or the relocation of the office. Holtan told me he did not want to send up any red flags; it was business as usual.

 

Towards the end of July, I approached Holtan and asked him if he was going to print the additional publication and Holtan’s first said, “No,” and then he said, “Maybe August.”

At this point, I knew that I had to make a judgment call.

 

I looked at how he robbed the sales representatives of their commissions from advertisers that pay monthly; strung the sales representatives for months with a false notion that the business will still be around in 2008, while they used their home equity lines of credit and life savings; how he had mislead me and Chehade during the potential sales of the business, and how he has falsely taken money from advertisers with a representation of 650,000 directories.

 

In addition, advertisers that made an overpayment did not receive a refund; the money was placed in a Fronteer Directory account called 2103.

 

My conscience did not allow me to continue; I had to make the public aware of this deception.

 

I informed the Clark County District Attorney David Roger and the media KVBC Channel 3 reporter Jesse Corona with the help of Chehade, as well as the Nevada State Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Fraud Protection.

 

The Nevada State Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into the matter and served a searched warrant against the Fronteer Directory Company of Nevada Inc. The lead investigator is Collin Haynes at 702-486-3799 for the Consumer Fraud Division.

 

By doing this, I have lost thousands of dollars and am now unemployed. I have chosen to turn in someone I was once very loyal to and listened to my conscience, picking morality over money. I hope that my shared experience will encourage business owners in the future to be honest with their customers, as well as their employees.

 

E-mail: SteveWSanson@cs.com phone (702) 283-8088 Website: http://www.VeteransInPolitics.com.

 

Other Related Story’s:

1)       Are Fronteer phone book advertisers getting what they paid for?
http://www.kvbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=6828860&nav=15MUCBSd

2)      Investigators seize Fronteer Directory’s financial, business records
http://www.kvbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=6840218&nav=15MUCBSd

3)      Former debt collector speaks out about Fronteer phonebook investigation

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20365500/

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