martinibuster - 6:00 pm on Jul 10, 2011 (gmt 0) [edited by: martinibuster at 6:09 pm (utc) on Jul 10, 2011]
I had noticed this a few months ago in relation to another niche, after some spammers had tried to spam one of my sites and I decided to poke around to see what they were up to. It was non-US spammers spamming on behalf of a US lead gen site targeting selected US cities.
I checked the addresses for several cities they claimed an office at and discovered via Google Maps Street View that the office space usually belonged to another business and in one case belonged to a mail drop store. I just rechecked this and it appears that this issue has been fixed. They're easy to identify so it's no surprise.
Unfortunately the one spammer I had scrutinized has spammed their way into the normal SERPs. So perhaps the Google Places team might want to share their data with Matt's team to shake out the spammers who migrated to the regular SERPs.
Lead gen sites dominate Google results for locksmiths in many cities nationwide, and in more than a few towns. And it's not just locksmiths. Other service industries, like roofing and carpeting, have a similar problem...
...the horde has the upper hand in certain service sectors, and it all but owns Google Places.
[edited by: martinibuster at 6:09 pm (utc) on Jul 10, 2011]