Company says Rockport couple stole nearly $5 million through fraudulent billing

Posted Aug. 21, 2014, at 1:43 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2014, at 2:12 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — An international window treatment company is claiming a Rockport couple concocted an elaborate scheme to bilk the firm of nearly $5 million.

Hunter Douglas Inc., based in Pearl River, N.Y., filed a lawsuit June 30 in U.S. District Court in Colorado claiming that Jason T. Throne, Mary C. Throne and Patent Services Group Inc. committed fraud against the company.

The attorney for Jason Throne and their company said the Thrones have yet to have the chance to reveal their side of the story.

“This is a dispute between Hunter Douglas and one of its former employees and another business,” said George “Toby” Dilworth, in a statement to the BDN. “Jason Throne is not going to litigate this case in the press. However, the allegations in the civil complaint are just that – allegations. The Thrones have not had a chance to present their side of the story in court.”

Jason Throne was Hunter Douglas’ senior patent lawyer for more than 20 years. The lawsuit claims that beginning in 1999, he and his wife created a company called Patent Services Group Inc. based in Rockport. Jason Throne would then have that firm bill Hunter Douglas for patent search services that were never performed, according to the lawsuit.

Between 2000 and 2014, Patent Services Group billed Hunter Douglas $30,000 to $40,000 on a monthly basis, according to the suit. While Throne was authorized him to hire outside firms and spend money for such work, the company said it prohibits salaried employees like Throne from work that could create a conflict of interest prior approval.

The lawsuit alleges that the Thrones would fax invoices to Hunter Douglas from their company to give the the bills an air of legitimacy, although their names were not present on any billing documents. The couple also rented a post office box in Colorado for payments to be sent.

The Thrones would then travel from Maine to Colorado to pick up the checks, which eventually totaled at least $4.8 million, according to the lawsuit.

A patent engineer at Hunter Douglas questioned Throne last November about the “astronomical” charges from Patent Services, the suit states. The engineer said she had never heard of the company but Throne assured her that it was a company that he regularly used.

The company fired Jason Throne in June for cause, according to the lawsuit.

Hunter Douglas claims the couple purchased significant homes in Rockport and Steamboat Springs, Colorado as well as automobiles and a boat with money fraudulently received from Hunter Douglas. The couple own a home and property assessed for about $2 million in Rockport.

The lawsuit alleges the actions amount to racketeering.

The company asks for unspecified damages from the couple.

Dilworth said the Thrones have deep roots in the Rockport area and appreciate their friends’ support at this time.

The latest action on the lawsuit occurred July 24, when the court denied a request by Hunter Douglas for a preliminary injunction preventing the Thrones from selling off their assets before the case is decided in court. Filings by the company indicate, however, that the Thrones have agreed to not sell off their properties pending a resolution of the lawsuit.

Hunter produces window treatments and architectural products such as dropped ceilings, according to its web site.

No criminal charges have been filed.

The Thrones were also involved in a civil court dispute in Maine in 2013 over whether their neighbors could cut trees on the Thrones’ property to preserve a view of the ocean. The parties eventually reached an agreement to allow for trees to be trimmed.

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