Facebook has brought a fraud lawsuit against affiliate marketer Martin Grunin, a New Yorker who allegedly bilked the social networking service out of $340,000 by acquiring ad inventory under false pretenses.
Starting in late 2012, Grunin allegedly began posing as an employee of Thinkmodo, a marketing agency owned by Marketing Drive, in order to purchase ad inventory.
Over the course of several months, Grunin allegedly used Thinkmodo's accounts to purchase $40,000 worth of ad inventory, and then used the space to run deceptive ads, including ones for products that appeared to be endorsed by Dr. Oz and Jennifer Lopez.
Facebook says in its complaint that Grunin sent the fake Thinkmodo emails from a phony domain name -- “thinksmodo.com.” It's not clear from the court documents how long it took Facebook to discover that this domain name was fake.
In early 2013, Grunin allegedly began posing as an employee of a different agency, Imprezzio Marketing.
Grunin allegedly sent emails to Facebook that purported to be from an employee of Imprezzio, but either “hijacked” or “spoofed” the “from” line of the email, according to the complaint. In response to Facebook's request for more information, Grunin allegedly sent false Imprezzio bank statements to the social-networking service.
Facebook ultimately gave Imprezzio a credit line, which he used to run at least $300,000 worth of problematic ads, the company alleges.
Before he began impersonating marketing companies, Grunin allegedly violated Facebook's terms of service by running ads with “sexually provocative content,” the company says. “These ads purported to offer casual dating services and included a picture of a woman with a sexually explicit and profane caption,” Facebook alleges.
The 22-year-old Grunin, dubbed “'The Wolf of Wall Street' Wannabe” by The New York Post, reportedly lives with his father in the Manhattan Beach section of Brooklyn.
“Grunin's unlawful marketing activity has tainted the Facebook experience for Facebook users and advertisers,” the company alleges in its lawsuit, which was filed this week in the Northern District of California.
The company says that Grunin violated its terms of service and engaged in fraud.
“Grunin is a serial offender who has repeatedly violated Facebook’s terms and applicable law,” Facebook says. “His unlawful activities include defrauding Facebook, accessing Facebook without authorization, selling access to Facebook advertising accounts without authorization, and tricking Facebook users into visiting commercial websites so that he could earn referral fees.”