Sale of Domain Names Used for Online Health Food Retail Leads to Lawsuit for Fraud, Breach of Contract - Inventory Recovery Corp. v. Gabriel
A business sued two individuals in a New Jersey federal district court in Inventory Recovery Corp. v. Gabriel, alleging that the defendants materially misrepresented the details of a sale of several hundred internet domain names. The plaintiff asserted multiple causes of action, including fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. The court dismissed all but two of the causes of action on the defendants’ motion.
The plaintiff, Illinois-based Inventory Recovery Corporation (IRC), sought to purchase 324 internet domain names from the defendants, Richard Gabriel and Ashley Gabriel. The defendants used the domain names in the business of selling nutraceutical food, which the court describes as food with health benefits. IRC’s president met with the defendants in January 2010 to discuss the purchase of the domain names and the associated business, and negotiations continued into February. Richard Gabriel provided IRC with financial documents related to business income and expenses. This included expenses for Google advertising, the business’ main marketing activity. He allegedly described robust sales and a positive relationships with the merchant banks that serviced customer payments for the business.
The parties entered into a series of contracts on February 26, 2010 for the sale of the domain names. They closed the same day, and the plaintiff paid the $5.6 million purchase price with a real estate parcel in the Bahamas, an airplane, and a sum of cash. According to testimony presented in the case, the plaintiff allegedly later discovered that the business did not have good relationships with its merchant banks, its Google advertising account was suspended, and the defendants had allegedly artificially inflated the business’ revenues.