FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 11, 2012
Judge Issues Injunction against what Attorney General
Calls “Predatory Scheme” Targeting Iowa Businesses
Miller files consumer fraud lawsuit against “Iowa Corporate Compliance;”
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz warns Iowa businesses about scheme
(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Polk County judge today issued a temporary injunction against a California man doing business as “Iowa Corporate Compliance” after Attorney General Tom Miller alleged it to be a government agency look-alike that had “successfully duped” Iowa businesses into paying $125 as state “document fees.”
District Judge D.J. Stovall issued a temporary injunction barring Aaron Vincent Williams, of Playa Vista, California, from misleading consumers or violating the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act through solicitations that appear to be from a governmental entity. Miller sought the temporary injunction in conjunction with a consumer fraud lawsuit against Williams and Iowa Corporate Compliance.
“This government agency look-alike is targeting business people across Iowa with official-looking mailings, and convincing them that they must complete and return a form with a $125 fee,” Miller said. “We allege that these documents are not worth anything more than the paper they’re printed on.”
The Iowa Corporate Compliance mailings, bearing an official-looking seal, create the false impression that they are sent by a governmental agency and that recipients are required to respond, Miller alleged in his lawsuit.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz noted that the office’s Business Services Division received calls and letters from concerned owners and representatives, as well as copies of the bogus form labeled, “Annual Meeting Disclosure Statement.”
“While state law requires businesses to keep records of certain meeting minutes, the law does not require businesses to file those minutes with us. Neither do we collect a fee for this type of filing,” Schultz said.
“Hard working Iowa business owners have been misled by these ‘official looking’ notices that require a $125 filing fee per document,” Schultz added. “I care about protecting Iowa businesses from this predatory scheme and want to let Iowans know that our office has nothing to do with this entity."
According to Miller’s lawsuit, Williams set up a Des Moines mail drop as the address of the state agency look-alike. Responses from Iowa businesses received at the mail drop were then to be forwarded to California. After learning about the scheme, Miller’s Consumer Protection Division issued a consumer fraud subpoena and seized more than 260 forms, including checks, from Iowans responding to the mailings.
One of those was from the owners of a small Dallas County business. “It looked like paperwork I’m required to fill out,” said Chris Rademacher who, with his wife Jamie, own the Des Moines West KOA Campground in Adel. “It seemed like it was legitimate.” The Rademachers filled out the form and wrote out a $125 check, which the Consumer Protection Division intercepted through its subpoena.
The Consumer Protection Division contacted seven Iowa businesses that had submitted forms and payments to Iowa Corporate Compliance. None realized the mailing had come from a for-profit business not affiliated with a governmental agency. All thought that the law required them to respond and make the payment. Miller noted that the mailings included disclaimers, but alleged that they were ineffective.
Schultz noted that the forms provided by Iowa Corporate Compliance are neither required nor recognized by the State of Iowa. State forms include an official seal from the Iowa Secretary of State and the name of Secretary of State Matt Schultz. For more information on business forms and fees, go to www.sos.iowa.gov and click on “Business Services.”
Both Miller and Schultz warn Iowans to be aware of government look-alike mail, which may be nothing more than a sales pitch. Carefully read the material, including the fine print, to determine if it really is from a government agency. If there is any question about its legitimacy, contact the Consumer Protection Division.
Miller’s lawsuit seeks refunds for any Iowa consumer losses, a permanent injunction, and a penalty of up to $40,000 for each Consumer Fraud Act violation.
To file a complaint or for more information, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside Des Moines call, toll-free, 1-888-777-4590. On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov.
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