MLive debuts investigative podcast tracing a nationwide business solicitation network back to three Michigan brothers

Across the nation for the last 20 years, businesses have gotten letters from official-sounding groups telling them what they need to do to comply with state or federal law and, importantly, where to pay.

The groups often sound local — like the Colorado Food Service Compliance Center or the Delaware Council for Corporations — and typically have a local address in the state capitol people can mail a check to. But in case after case, they actually trace back to a series of companies owned by three Michigan brothers.

Businesses connected to Thomas, Joseph and Steven Fata have been the subject of more than 30 complaints or enforcement actions by attorneys general in 20 states.

Related: 20 states have taken action against a Michigan company accused of misleading small business owners

But what kind of business model is this? Why do they keep it going, despite persistent legal trouble? Why did a big effort to stop them fail in court? And who are the brothers…

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