GIRARD - The operator of a telephone solicitation operation that was shut down last week by the Ohio Attorney General was charged in a warrant for soliciting and intimidating a victim / witness based on a complaint filed with Girard police by a woman who worked there.
Paul Grossi, 35, has not been served the warrant charging him with the first-degree misdemeanor charge of intimidation and the third-degree misdemeanor charge of soliciting.
Grossi also is being sued by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on allegations he was running an unauthorized solicitation operation on behalf of bogus charities.
An assistant attorney general said Tuesday she has been told Grossi was in New Jersey but that he had retained an attorney in Youngstown to represent him at a May 11 court proceeding in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
Investigators for the Attorney General's Office gave Grossi a cease-and-desist order to stop running PJG Enterprises Inc. at 206 N. State St., Girard.
Attorney Dionne DeNunzio, an assistant attorney general with the charitable law section, was granted a temporary restraining order to shut down the operation and freeze any bank accounts that held any donations received on behalf of the American Breast Cancer and American Veterans Federations, both deemed fraudulent charities by investigators.
Grossi faces similar civil sanctions in New Jersey after being shut down there last month.
DeNunzio said Tuesday investigators in her office and Girard police were working separately on independent investigations.
''We received an anonymous complaint from a woman who worked in Girard and was fired for not making enough money over the phone. She did her own research and found out about New Jersey. She called the AG in New Jersey and was referred to us,'' DeNunzio said.
While the state started investigating, Girard got its own complaint from a 19-year-old Canfield woman that prompted a local police investigation leading to the two misdemeanor charges filed late Monday or early Tuesday in Girard Municipal Court.
The woman claimed she was called into Grossi's office April 7 to discuss a promotion. At some point during the conversation, Grossi asked the woman if she would perform oral sex in exchange for money, according to an affidavit Patrolman John Freeman had filed in order to get a search warrant for PJG offices.
The woman told Freeman she attempted to leave Grossi's office at which time Grossi stood up from his desk and blocked her exit from the room and touched her inappropriately, according to the affidavit.
After pushing Grossi away, the woman told Freeman that Grossi told her ''if this does not stay confidential, there will be dire consequences.''
Freeman's affidavit explains that Capt. John Norman started a followup investigation to the complaint, and when he went to PJG he noticed, ''numerous young women working at the business, many of whom were dressed in short skirts, high heels and wore their hair in a down fashion.''
Norman said Grossi acted very evasive toward him and demanded Norman's identification no less than three times.
The company dress code requiring employees to wear their hair down and dress in high heels was affirmed by the former employee who filed the complaint over her firing with the state.
The woman who filed the complaint in the criminal case told Girard police later that several cameras were set up in the workplace and she believed that a video system fed directly into Grossi's office. She said Grossi is known to hire younger women, and she knew of at least two females from Hubbard High School hired after fliers were left on car windshields at the school. Norman said he got similar reports of the same flyers left on cars at Girard High School.
Girard police executed a search warrant signed by Girard Municipal Judge Jeff Adler April 25 to confiscate computer equipment, information storage equipment, cameras and video surveillance equipment from the 206 N. State St. address.
DeNunzio said forensic accountants with the Ohio Attorney General's Office will attempt to find any and all accounts holding suspected donations gained from callers in Ohio.
Routinely if the state prevails in its lawsuit, any proceeds illegally solicited can be turned over to authentic charities, DeNunzio said.