The Sleaziness Of The Door-To-Door Magazine-Subscriptions Industry Continues
Editor's Note: The following article has been updated to clarify some statements made in the original. To clarify, we did not mean to suggest that Levonia Stancil is the owner of Unified Doers Management Group. And we wish to make clear that it is Darrick Stancil who settled a civil fine for $3,600 with the state's attorney's office in Maryland in 2004.
The Houston Press regrets the errors.
On March 30, Grand Prairie police say, a magazine subscription salesman knocked on the door of a 78-year-old woman, raped her, poured rubbing alcohol on her chest, and set her on fire. The question right now is not "How did this happen?" but "When and where will it happen again?"
Police quickly arrested Daniel Deshawn Neal, 23, who was awaiting trial on trespassing and burglary charges in Maryland. When Neal was arrested, he told Grand Prairie police he worked for a Washington, D.C.-based company called U.D. Management - a so-called processing center for magazine subscriptions sold door-to-door by the following affiliates: Go Doers, Unified Doers, and Unified Stars.
U.D. Management President Darrick Stancil tells us that his company has no business interests in those companies beyond processing their orders and running criminal background checks on the sales agents. After first agreeing to provide us with hire dates for former agents we'd already ran background checks on, Stancil said his "legal counsel" had advised him against it.
After all, U.D. Management has a history of processing orders submitted by agents with extensive criminal histories. In May 2008, Unified Doers salesman Jerwayne Hunter grabbed a 13-year-old girl off her bike near Boston. The 25-year-old Hunter, who in 2005 had pleaded guilty to drug and theft charges in Philadelphia, was subsequently charged with assault and battery, accosting, child enticement, and peddling without a license.
Meanwhile, our background checks have turned up agents with records of assault, larceny, and drug possession - and that's just for starters.
Although Darrick Stancil is listed as the president, U.D. Management is incorporated in Maryland under the name Levonia Stancil. Tax records also show that Levonia Stancil owns several rental homes in North Carolina, which, based on online testimonials of current and former agents, appears to be a state where the companies affiliated with U.D. Management do some heavy recruiting. (In 2004, Darrick Stancil settled a $3,600 civil fine with the Maryland State's Attorney's office, for failure to insure the vans that shuttled folks like Daniel Deshawn Neal around the country).
But between 2001-2008, it appears that Unified Stars, headed by Eugene and Marni Weldon, operated out of Michigan City, Indiana. (That city was also home to one of the most notorious subscription processing companies, American Community Services, which processed orders for 18-year-old Azriel Bridge when, in 2004, he beat a 77-year-old woman with a fireplace bellows and then slit her throat with her own kitchen knife. After Bridge did the deed, he wiped the blade clean and placed it back in the woman's butcher block.)
U.D. Management's crews do a lot of work in Texas. In February 2008, Flower Mound police arrested several sales agents for peddling without a license. The company also appears to have a Houston-based recruiter, who calls herself "Dblock" on MySpace. (Her mood is listed as "horny").
Last week, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a law imposing stiff regulations on door-to-door solicitors. The measure, which was meant to safeguard the health of the sales agents as well as homeowners, had been lobbied against by the industry's trade group, the National Field Selling Association. And last year, the City of Albuquerque was on the path to becoming the first city to sue the owner of a subscription company for negligence, in the hiring of two men who beat an elderly couple to death in December 2007. That litigation was aborted when the owner, Robert Spruiell, was stabbed to death in a Miami hotel room in May 2008.
We will continue to run background checks on agents who knock on doors for U.D. Management. And law enforcement will continue to treat each case of murder, rape, and assault as isolated incidents, without tracing them back to where the subscription orders are processed - and the mainstream publishers that continue to make the door-to-door subscription industry extremely lucrative.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.