Woman slams Hillcrest businesses over homeless removal

Posted at 9:44 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 00:44:53-04

A Hillcrest business owner has filed a complaint with the FBI over bad Yelp reviews.

Dr. Darren Farnesi owns Medical Age Management. He says the woman who gave him the one star review has never been a customer. Instead, she's upset about the Hillcrest Business Association hiring private security guards to remove homeless people who camp outside the businesses.

Farnesi says the added security is needed.

"About once a week we clean up poop or vomit. Every day we clean up trash. This is on our property, not on the city sidewalk," said Farnesi.

Taylor Gobar posted negative Yelp and Facebook reviews about several Hillcrest businesses, but she was especially upset with Farnesi because his business was planning to host a mixer Thursday night of the business association.

"Part of being a business in a community or neighborhood like Hillcrest, is not just providing transactional services, but also being a good community member," said Gobar.

Gobar said part of the reason she posted the reviews was to get the business owners' attention. She wanted to make sure they knew the association hired the armed guards.

"Sweeps are wrong. Sweeps do not work. Sweeps are cruel. There are plenty of studies that show they don't work," said Gobar.

Farnesi says Gobar told him the only way she'd remove the negative posts was if he publicly "denounced" the association. That's why he filed a complaint with the FBI. A spokesman with the agency said he was not aware of any investigation into the complaint.

"It appalls me that she hasn't been arrested or fined. Extortion is illegal. If you were trying to do this to me verbally or in person you would be in trouble with the law, but because it's on this internet review thing, it's an area of the law that I don't think has really been tested very well," said Farnesi.

Gobar said the business owners are over reacting.

"Seems very silly that a business would react so strongly to a very short lived review. It was only up for a few hours," said Gobar.

Megan Gamwell of the Hillcrest Business Association called the attacks unfortunate.

"To see our businesses attacked in places where it's so important for their livelihood, Yelp,social media,those are huge assets to a small business," said Gamwell.

The association hired the private security firm after getting complaints about aggressive transients.

"We're providing this resource for them because we listen and we heard and we saw what the issues are in our neighborhood. So to see them personally attacked for something like this is just really unfortunate," said Gamwell.

Farnesi said Gobar is taking out her anger on the wrong people.

"If you really care for the homeless and needy then get behind some kind of program." said Farnesi.

Gobar said she plans to take her concerns to the next meeting of the Hillcrest Business Association. She also says she'll pass out informational material at the Hillcrest Farmers Market.