What began as an IRS sting, Operation Out Call in the Dallas, Texas IRS office, soon evolved into Operation Plastic Empire, in Orlando, Florida, a Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) brainstorm, which soon led to the Amnesty Program, also described in my book.
Operation Out Call was a sting the IRS dreamed-up to target escort services that accepted credit cards back in 1995. The IRS busted and then took-over Electronic Merchant Services (EMS), a company that processed credit cards for adult businesses. When it was still EMS I almost signed-up with it, with almost being the operative word. I met the EMS area representative at my office, but the paperwork required that I write-in the "type of business" and I wrote "escort service" which resulted in the rep ripping-up the contract and stating that I needed to write "tour company" or something else. I informed him that all of my business licenses, city and county, stated "escort service" so I couldn't do that. I told the guy:
"I think that's credit card factoring, or something like that, when you process credit cards by claiming to be something else. Who knows? I'm not an attorney, but what's wrong with writing the correct type of business?"
Soon he was packing his processing machine back in the box, picking-up his papers, and exiting. Quite a few people – escorts and a booker – were ticked off at me that day. We were doing little business because just about every other agency accepted credit cards.
This transpired prior to the IRS taking over EMS and signing-up escort services all over the country. I was later contacted, on several occasions, by the IRS to sign-up to accept credit cards. They had some man that sounded like a New Jersey thug calling me in an attempt to entice me, and then drilling me as to why I refused the offer. This strategy in itself gave me a clue that something was amiss. He didn't leave me alone until I told him why I'd never accept credit cards: At my agency the clients will get their privacy whether they want it or not – if I wanted the bank and the government to have client lists, I'd just fax them over a copy. The agent said that he understood my point and never called me again.
At the same time I had potential clients (really the MBI) calling me in force wanting to use credit cards, and then stating some form of "oh I understand – you are avoiding paying taxes." This continued to the point that it was absurd. Soon I was just hanging-up the phone as soon as I heard "credit card" – my ads were close to the only ads without credit card emblems. They did manage to sign-up around 15 agencies that had at least a hundred ads in area yellow pages though. I was one of very few that passed and several other agencies already accepted credit cards via other processing companies. Incidentally, EMS (and the IRS) charged 18% to process the transactions.
The MBI began working with the IRS on this operation and the agency was now privy to information concerning the credit card holder's name, address, bank etc…. For the MBI, each credit card user was now a potential state witness.
The story about IRS Operation Out Call is still available in the July 22, 1996 issue of New York Magazine that is published in Google Books. I had it embedded in the footer of this blog, but Blogger no longer allows frames, so go to the link and the story, titled "The Love Float," starts on page 30, which actually states, "The Screwball Scheme" as title: The Love Float by Daniel Green