The Reporter

He had become a legendary figure in the annals of Philadelphia journalism …

One of the principals of the Taylor-Wallace firm was a dapper, balding businessman named Joe Py. Py also happened to be the president of Clover Installation, one of the schocky home repair outfits from which Taylor-Wallace was buying paper.

Scolnick and Karafin told Py that he was in a very vulnerable business. Both the State Banking Department and the District Attorney’s office were looking into certain aspects of the credit paper and home repair fields they said. Harry Karafin, the public relations man, could be a big help. He had a lot of contacts and he could provide valuable advice. Karafin did not say that as part of his public relations effort he would provide newspaper publicity for Joe Py’s operations. The kind of publicity that expose reporter Harry Karafin could give him was the last thing Py needed.

Scolnick and Karafin asked Py for $5000, as an initial retainer.

Py said he would think it over.

Shortly afterwards there appeared in the Inquirer, under an eight-column headline across the top of its split-page, an article concerning the proliferation of house repair frauds. It said that "high-pressure salesmen" were preying on "unwary home owners" and quoted ‘William A. Peterson, executive vice president of the Better Business Bureau, who explained the details of their methods. And this was the last paragraph:

"Said Peterson: ‘The Better Business Bureau believes the only way to stop this racket is to expose it.’ ”

Scolnick and Karafin returned to Joe Py. Py, whose Clover Installation had a few dozen salesmen out on the street selling home repairs, told them that he suddenly realized the benefits of a public relations consultant like Harry Karafin. He wrote two checks, one for $3000 and one for $2000, sent them to the bank to be cashed, and handed the money to Sylvan Scolnick. Harry Karafin stood by smiling his toothy smile.

But that was only the beginning. Thereafter Karafin himself stopped by every Monday morning for a regular retainer check. Over the next four years, Joe Py paid him close to $12,000.

New vistas opened. Times were booming and the home repair-credit paper business was going strong. Scolnick and Karafin began to go after the others, and it may be only a coincidence that the thickness of a firm’s file at the Better Business Bureau bears some relationship to Karafin’s fees. Soon, however, public relations man Karafin came to realize that his association with the Fat Man wasn’t doing him any good, image-wise. He began cutting him out of deals. It didn’t seem to hurt Karafin’s quest for new clients. But, then, they were the types of firms which needed his public relations services badly. Aluminum Associates, for instance, found its salesmen arrested in Montgomery County. And a Philadelphia firm called Arrow Products used techniques that were so blatant the State Banking Department finally issued a cease-and-desist order, despite Karafin’s four months of public relations for it — at a fee of $4000. ("You might say we wanted to curry favor," admits a former Arrow executive.)

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