Defense Against Consumer Fraud Allegations
Recently, the Florida Attorney General’s Office announced that it is prosecuting four Palm Beach County call centers, seeking large penalties for fraud. The call centers allegedly tricked consumers into paying for computer repairs that they did not need. The companies placed pop-up ads on websites, falsely informing users that their computers were under attack by viruses or other malware, and would entice the users into paying hundreds of dollars in order to supposedly remove the threat and fix their computers.
Scams of this nature have increasingly become a focus of the Florida Attorney General, in response to an exponential increase in the prevalence of schemes to defraud people who are not technologically savvy, especially seniors, throughout Florida.
Consumer Fraud Investigations and Trials
Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Law prohibits the use of “unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” The law’s interpretation is sweeping, and many practices that seem innocuous to the operators of a business could attract the attention of state investigators.
Often, in criminal prosecutions, before an arrest is made, the government has been watching the suspect for a long time. Prosecutors can spend many months, or even years, building a case before they file charges. Because you cannot be sure of what stage an investigation for consumer fraud may be at, it is important to not try to speak with investigators without an attorney present. State investigators are experts at eliciting contradictory statements that may seem innocent, but can later be used against you. If you are approached for an interview or questioning, contact an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney before you agree to speak with law enforcement.
Under the law, retailers who unwittingly pass on false claims from a manufacturer or wholesaler are not liable for consumer fraud. You may have conducted business with someone, whom you may not even recall, who is under investigation, and that association may well have triggered a criminal investigation of you or your business.
Those who have been found liable for fraud can be made to repay any funds gained through deception, and civil penalties of up to $10,000 can be levied for each violation. In addition, the law treats acts of fraud perpetrated against vulnerable persons more harshly. If the acts or practices that have come under scrutiny tend to victimize or aim to victimize seniors or handicapped persons, the penalties for each violation are raised to $15,000.
Defend Your Reputation by Enlisting the Help of a Defense Attorney
Because the penalties for consumer fraud can be so severe, it is of the utmost importance that you contact an experienced South Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as you suspect that you are being investigated. Jeffrey S. Weiner will work tirelessly to prevent charges from being filed against you, to influence what charges are filed or how an arrest is made, or to negotiate a grant of immunity for you. Contact the office today to schedule a consultation.