Florida’s attorney general goes after Tampa company accused of mailing fake stimulus checks

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is taking legal action against a Tampa-based advertising company accused of mailing used car promotions disguised as coronavirus stimulus checks, according to a news release.

Last month, 8 On Your Side spoke with Thomas Andrews who said he received what appeared to be a fake check in the mail.

“It said time-sensitive, fast-tracked, open immediately, do not bend, stuff like that,” Andrews recalled.

The fake check was made out for more than $3,000. “Stimulus Relief Program” was written in the personal information section and “COVID-19 AUTO STIMULUS” was written in the memo line. At the time, Congress hadn’t even approved the $2.2 trillion stimulus package.

(Photo: Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody)

The check also mentioned a 10-day temporary automobile tent sale, and said the relief funds and other incentives would be available to claim at the sale.

After doing some digging, 8 On Your Side discovered the number affiliated with the listed address belonged to a carport and truck rental service in Bushnell. A man speaking on behalf of that rental service had no clue their number was being used in these mailers.

Moody’s office saw a number of complaints about the mail piece and opened an investigation into Traffic Jam Events, LLC, an advertising company that organizes auto tent sale events at various locations throughout Florida and its owner David J. Jeansonne.

On Thursday, Moody’s Consumer Protection Division filed a legal complaint and motion for temporary injunction against the company. The complaint alleges the company used the fake checks to solicit customers to attend a sales at a various locations throughout Florida. Her office said the checks were mailed to more than 35,000 Floridians.

“This type of deceptive marketing is completely unacceptable and is even more outrageous during these challenging times,” Moody said. “These marketing ploys prey on people’s desperate anticipation of stimulus assistance and falsely suggest that there is government stimulus funding for auto purchases, but they also seek to entice people under false pretenses to show up in person to claim the benefits in blatant disregard for local and state safer-at-home initiatives. These misleading practices will not be tolerated, and if anyone tries to take advantage of this crisis and the legitimate financial assistance available for those in need, my office will hold you accountable.”

Moody also thanked 8 On Your Side in a statement for “spotting this deceptive marketing practice and helping us protect consumers.”

Violators of the Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) are subject to civil penalties of $10,000 per violation, and $15,000 for each violation that victimized or attempted to victimize a senior citizen, according to the complaint.

The auto dealer that supplied the automobiles for the tent sale MK Automotive, Inc. d/b/a New Wave, and its owner, Michael Kastrenakes, are cooperating with the investigation and have agreed to cut ties with Traffic Jam Events. They will also pay $10,000 toward consumer restitution and a $1,000 civil penalty.

Traffic Jam Events did not return any calls or emails for comment.

Contact reporter Victoria Price at vprice@wfla.com.

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