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Texas man's search for "hot Russian bride" ends in lawsuit

DUNEDIN — Twice divorced, Robert Shaw was hoping the third time would be a charm.

Shaw, of Beaumont, Texas, said he spent $7,000 over three years to find a wife through www.hotrussian brides.com.

But the 57-year-old said nothing romantic ever materialized through the Dunedin-based online dating company.

So, Shaw aired his complaints where so many people do these days — on the Internet. He posted several comments questioning the legitimacy of the site on a blog — not his — that says the international matchmaking site, and others like it, are fraudulent.

Now the company that runs the dating site is suing Shaw. Not for the comments he posted, but because he failed to get them removed after he agreed to make every effort to do so.

The Web site, and another, www.russianlovematch.com, are subsidiaries of Romantic Tours, a Dunedin business owned by Gregory Pearson. Pearson, who owns a home in Palm Harbor, could not be reached for comment last week. His attorney Joseph Weissman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In the suit, Pearson alleges Shaw breached his agreement to "exert all reasonable efforts" to have the comments wiped from the Web and even posted more negative comments, which Shaw promised he would not do. Pearson said he's suffered as a result.

Shaw said everything went fine when he first signed up with www.hotrussian brides.com. He initially paid $30 a month in membership fees, plus additional money for "video chat credits" that allowed him to video-conference with Russian women.

The first red flag, he said, came when he sent some jewelry overseas as a gift to some of the women he had befriended. The envelope arrived, he said he was told, but it was empty.

Then, he said, he paid $175 for a packet on one of the women, "Marina 1000," that was to include her address and phone number. But Shaw received only her e-mail address, he said.

That's when Shaw starting combing the Internet for other complaints about www.hot russianbrides.com. He found plenty, he said.

According to the Web site, Russian women who use it are not paid. It says they prefer American men because they are "dissatisfied with Russian men." It also says Russian women outnumber "eligible" Russian men 4 to 1, and that they seek American men who are more family-oriented than their Russian counterparts.

But Shaw said none of the women he spoke to seemed interested in a long-term relationship.

"Basically, I kept meeting ladies and they all said they wanted to commit, but they never would," Shaw said. "They would keep you online and draw you out as long as they could so you'd use up your video chat credits."

No complaints have been filed about the business through the Pinellas County Department of Consumer Protection, said Jason Ohman, senior consumer protection investigator.

Shaw admits he signed a contract in mid September that said he'd do his best to remove the negative comments and would refrain from posting more. In return, he'd be paid $2,500. Shaw said he agreed to it because he had said his piece and figured he could recoup some of the money he'd lost.

According to Shaw, he lived up to his end of the bargain by requesting the blog comments be taken down. It's not his fault they weren't, he said. When Romantic Tours didn't pay him the $2,500, he posted more comments, he said.

"My viewpoint is Romantic Tours can't suppress freedom of speech," he said Wednesday.

Shaw, who works in marketing, has filed a countersuit against Pearson.

"I've been beat out of $7,000," Shaw said. "I'm mad. I want my money back."

Shaw said he's still looking for Mrs. Right, but not through international dating sites.

"I have given up on foreign ladies entirely. I'm on Match.com now."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

Protect yourself

The Pinellas County Department of Consumer Protection offers these tips to protect consumers when buying products or services online:

• Do your homework — research the company before signing up. To search for complaints against businesses in Pinellas County, visit the Web page at www.pinellascounty.org/

consumer/default.htm.

• Read contracts carefully to determine if there are fees for early termination of memberships or other hidden costs.

• Be cautious about giving out your personal information online.

• Watch for any unauthorized purchases attributed to your credit card.

Texas man's search for "hot Russian bride" ends in lawsuit 11/10/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 15, 2008 7:31pm]

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