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Company Accused of Falsely Claiming Relationship With Anheuser-Busch : State Sues Westlake Village Video Game Firm

August 21, 1986|GREG JOHNSON | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A Westlake Village company that sold video game machines patterned after the popular Trivial Pursuit board game attracted buyers by falsely representing itself as being allied with the Anheuser-Busch brewery, according to lawsuits filed recently in San Diego and Los Angeles.

The supposed involvement of Anheuser-Busch, headquartered in St. Louis, helped to persuade at least 40 California investors to purchase varying numbers of the $3,500 coin-operated machines from Westlake Village-based Telstar Products Division Inc., according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court by the California attorney general's office.

Anheuser-Busch distanced itself from Telstar Products Division on Aug. 13 when it filed a 31-page complaint in Superior Court in Los Angeles that accused Telstar and a New Jersey company that manufactured the devices of trademark and trade-name infringements and unfair competition.

The machines display the brewer's logo and play its commercial jingle when the game is under way.

Attorneys for Anheuser-Busch in Los Angeles were not available for comment.

"Everyone we've spoken to has been misled by Telstar Products Division through substantial misrepresentations about the amount of money the machines would return and the quality of locations in which they'd be located," said M. Howard Wayne, deputy attorney general, who has been investigating complaints about Telstar since February.

The suit, which charges Telstar with violating disclosure requirements and taking excessive down payments, seeks to stop the company from selling the machines in California.

It also seeks restitution for buyers and at least $500,000 in civil penalties.

Telstar "denies the allegations" contained in both suits, according to Gerald Chizever, , a Los Angeles attorney for Telstar, who characterized investors who complained to the state as "a group with sour grapes."

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Chester Cruse, of Los Angeles, who said he bought four of the machines a year ago after seeing Telstar newspaper advertisements that promoted involvement by Anheuser-Busch and promised a quick return on the $3,500 purchase price of each machine.

"You've got to remember that a lot of people are ashamed, because you don't want to tell anyone about making bad business decisions," said Cruse, who added that two machines that he placed in Pasadena bars have returned less than $5 a week in profits.

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