Businesses being ordered to lose their names or pay up

December 4, 2013 6:49 pm

Letter from FBN Brokers

Hundreds of East Bay businesses have received orders from the firm, FBN Brokers, demanding they pony up hundreds of dollars immediately or quit using their business names and signs.

Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles in Oakland is a national, minority owned empowerment store for African-American economic and health development.  This weekend, proprietor Joel Hamburger says he got a crudely addressed envelope, with an Oakland P.O. Box return address, demanding money. 

The letter states that because Uhuru failed to renew its business name with Alameda County, they must pay. 

Hamburger said they received the letter on November 30th and that the order was to pay $225 by December 4th, if they didn’t pay by then they had to pay $335 by December 11th and if they don’t pay by then it goes up to $435.

The letter goes on to demand they quit using the business name.

“Please remove all signs, etc. We will sell your expired name to another business.  So, it’s a shakedown,” Hamburger read on.

FBN Brokers is owned by Mark Smith of Oakland.  Smith apparently purchased 233 fictitious business names for less than $1700 and now is demanding those business owners pay him in order to keep their names.  The potential payoff is between $50,000 to $100,000.

“He hit up and down Grand Avenue, up and down Piedmont Avenue,” Hamburger said.

The County Records Office says there’s nothing it can do, as Smith keeps filing and filing.

“We don’t have the power or authority to reject any duplicate names, so someone could come in and conceivable register the same name someone else is using,” says Kevin Hing of the Alameda County Records Office.

Smith would not do an on-camera interview with KTVU but did say via telephone that was he’s doing is perfectly legal and suggested KTVU contact the District Attorney, who is now looking into the matter.