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Civil Theft Defense

Successful Defense of a Potential Grand Theft and Civil Theft Prosecution

Facts

The client was a respected supervisor at a large travel agency in Jacksonville. A big customer of the agency began falling behind on his payments and convinced the client to keep booking travel for him even though he owed the agency money. The client did so and did not tell the travel agency that the big customer was in arrears. The owner of the travel agency confronted the client and accused her not only of improperly handling the account and hiding it from the agency, but of engaging in fraud and misappropriating funds herself. The agency was owed more than $25,000. The travel agency threatened to report the client to the police and, incredibly, the client felt so bad about it that she signed a promissory note agreeing to pay the travel agency back all the money owed by the big customer. The client was fired and, of course, could not pay the money back. She was then threatened by a large law firm that the travel agency hired with both criminal and civil prosecution. The large law firm discovered that even more money was owed and demanded payment of treble (triple) damages; the loss figure climbed to over $128,000.!

My Approach

It was clear that the client was the victim and that she had been taken advantage of by both the big customer and the travel agency. And now she had a big law firm threatening her with civil and criminal prosecution. Taking the bull by the horns, I brought the client in to the State Attorney's Office as the victim of a crime, rather than a defendant. The investigator discovered that the big customer of the travel agency was an experienced con man and was being prosecuted for taken advantage of others, just like the client. The client was prepared to be a witness against the big customer, but the big customer plead guilty in another confidence scam and was sentenced to prison. I was able to convince the State Attorney's investigator to call the big law firm and intercede on the client's behalf. The investigator did so and the big firm backed off; the promissory note signed by the client under duress from the travel agency was never enforced.

Final Analysis

Sometimes the best course of action is to take the initiative. The case required me to show that the client was the victim, which she certainly was, even though she had been painted as a thief and wrongdoer by everyone else. By involving the State Attorney's Office before she was charged with any criminal wrongdoing not only prevented her from being prosecuted but saved her from having an unfair judgment enforced against her. This was a complete success for a satisfied client and prevented a miscarriage of justice.

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