New Mexico Town is Victims Of a $ 63,000.00 Toner Phoner Scam

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New Mexico Town is Victims Of a $ 63,000.00 Toner Phoner Scam

 user admin 2014-11-04 at 10:47:05 am Views: 281
  • #41377

    New Mexico Town is Victims Of a  $ 63,000.00 Toner Phoner Scam
    Questa contests $63K ink bill
    By Andrew Oxford

    Between 2010 and 2012, the village of Questa was billed $62,829.50 for toner officials say staff never ordered.

    The village is said to have only had one copier, after all.

    “The girls sent it back because we didn’t request it,” Esther García, who was mayor at the time, said of the packages which purportedly arrived unsolicited at Questa’s village hall. “We thought that was the end of that.”

    But the municipal government still ended up with a lengthy invoice for ink, which may be part of a scam, and a company has filed a lawsuit to collect the debt.

    The toner was shipped to Questa by Imaging Supply Center, a now-defunct corporation once based in Villa Park, California, and listed by a local office of the Better Business Bureau as engaged in “sale by deceptive telemarketing.”

    The company has been suspected of “toner phoner” scams.

    The sheriff’s office in Larimer County, Colorado reported in 2012 a local business received unsolicited ink from Imaging Supply Center and was threatened with legal action when it did not pay.

    Investigators suspected the company called the local business, asked for an address as well as a staff person’s name and mailed them toner alleging the employee had ordered it.

    In that case, the Colorado business paid approximately $1,100 before discovering the error but offers to return toner it had already received were reportedly declined by Imaging Supply Center.

    Similarly, staff at the village of Questa began receiving packages as well as bills from the company in December 2009 and continued to pay through August 2010, according to an invoice. By that point, the village had already paid $18,970 to the company.

    The village reportedly does not have a pile of toner, however. García said staff returned most of the packages it received from Imaging Supply Center and a lawyer representing the village suggested there is no proof it received all the toner for which it was billed.

    Current mayor Mark Gallegos did not respond to a request for comment by deadline Wednesday (Oct. 29).

    Payment ceased but Questa continued to be billed until Sept. 15, 2012, when the village is alleged to have owed a total of $62,829.50 — approximately $35 per Questeño. Almost all of the charges were for sums of $1,158.25 except for one final charge of $28,082.

    Imaging Supply Center sold the village’s debt to Legal and Debt Recovery, an Orange, California-based company, in 2013.

    One year later, on Jan. 29, the company filed a lawsuit against the village to collect $62,829.50, legal fees in the amount of 25 percent and annual interest of 15 percent from the date of judgment until the invoice is paid in full.

    A lawyer representing the village maintains Questa was never indebted to Imaging Supply Center because there was no contract with the company.

    “The fact some of it was paid for appears to have been a clerical issue,” Lindsay Drennan told The Taos News, referring to bills village staff paid before realizing they never ordered the toner listed on the invoice.

    Drennan filed a motion calling on Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Backus to dismiss the case.The lawyer representing Legal and Debt Recovery, Bruce S. Garber, said during a hearing before the Eighth Judicial District Court Monday (Oct. 27) he does not have record of a formal agreement between Imaging Supply Center and the village but suggested a written contract is not needed to collect the debt.

    Garber referred to UPS records indicating village staff signed for the packages for years.

    Drennan had alleged Questa’s status as a village gave it immunity from the debt but Garber countered the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled municipalities do not have any such exemption.

    Judge Sarah Backus did not rule on Drennan’s motion for summary judgment Monday but indicated a ruling could be expected in the coming week.

    If Backus rules in favor of Questa, the case could be dismissed altogether. If not, the lawsuit could continue to wind its way through the court.