Consumer Protection investigation leads to arrest, $203,941 in restitution for 30 victims
Pinellas County Consumer Protection’s discovery of a scam in 2020 and subsequent investigation led to justice for 30 victims across the country when the scammer was recently sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay $203,941 in restitution.
The Consumer Protection team noticed the scam while investigating a telemarketing business claiming to help customers sell vacant land. The victim was also paying a secondary company to sell their land, and they were making promises they couldn’t keep.
This second company promised to have buyers willing to pay several times the current value for vacant lots if their customers paid various “refundable” fees for surveys, title transfers, taxes, documents, and mineral rights. Despite these promises, no land was ever sold through their process.
Consumer Protection investigated and found that, while the Pinellas County company changed names seven times in five years, it was always controlled by the same person.
After more than a year of collecting evidence, Consumer Protection made a criminal referral to the State Attorney’s Office, and the owner of the company was arrested in July 2022. After pleading guilty to fraud charges in June 2023, the scammer was sentenced and ordered to pay restitution to 30 victims, in 20 different states, aged 64 to 96.
Scams can be hard to spot. They can be large or small, sophisticated or simple, but the people behind them have two things in common: They want to steal your money and avoid being caught. The reality is anyone could fall victim to a scam, no matter your age, intellect or economic status.
If you think you have been the victim of a scam, the dedicated employees of Pinellas County Consumer Protection are here to help. Investigators are available to speak with you (727) 464-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.