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Business owner charged with defrauding Florida agency

A former owner of a business that contracted out with the Florida Department of Financial Services to audit unclaimed property is now accused of defrauding the state of $117,041.82. It is claimed that the 55-year-old woman remitted unclaimed property funds to herself.

While collecting liabilities owed to the state, this woman's company was allowed to collect fees of up to 15 percent in relation to the dollar amount of the property. One other business her company was collecting from owed the state $117,403. While $17,500 for the 15 percent of the fees was transferred over to the woman's company after the amount owed was collected, it was claimed that more than $99,000 was later transferred to the company's accounts as well.

It is further alleged that the Department of Financial Services was led to believe that the dealings with this other business were not yet complete and that work by the woman's company was continuing. Instead the company's owner was purportedly using these funds for business and personal expenses.

It needs to be remembered that what was printed in the newspaper are allegations likely provided to the news organization by prosecutors or law enforcement officers. The company owner has not yet been tried in a court of law and there has been no final determination concerning the evidence by either a judge or jury as to whether the allegations are true.

The consequences of these allegations, however, can be severe. The company owner could be forced to pay restitution, see her business closed and possibly face time in jail.

When law enforcement commences an investigation, it is important for the person or company facing allegations of criminal violations, to obtain an experienced criminal defense attorney. By conducting a defense investigation, favorable witnesses and evidence may be developed which can be used to convince law enforcement that their initial findings are incorrect, thereby preventing formal charges and an arrest. Even if law enforcement persists in filing criminal charges, the defense investigation is important and can lead to a successful defense of the case. In white-collar cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney should be retained as soon as possible to properly conduct a thorough defense investigation.

Source: Tallahassee Democrat, "Woman charged with white-collar crime in Department of Financial Services theft," Sean Rossman, May 8, 2014

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