SOURCE: Greenspoon Marder, P.A.

December 21, 2006 11:48 ET

Lawsuit Filed Against Major Credit Card Issuers in Case Involving Multiple Instances of Identity Theft

Greenspoon Marder Lawyer Richard H. Gaines to Pursue Case on Behalf of Small Business Owner Defrauded by her Office Manager

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- December 21, 2006 --The law firm Greenspoon Marder, P.A. announced that a lawsuit was filed in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County on behalf of psychotherapist Randy J. Heller and The Family Network, Inc. (TFN). Heller is seeking damages from American Express Company, Bank of America, Capital One Services, Inc., JP Morgan Chase and Wachovia Bank in a case involving multiple occurrences of fraud and identity theft by her former bookkeeper, Laura Matthai, Heller's former personal assistant, office manager and bookkeeper, who was recently arrested and is pending criminal prosecution in relation to these actions.

Matthai forged Heller's signature on checks, improperly used her credit/debit cards, and made wire transfers, ATM withdrawals, automated bill payments and telephone transfers from Heller's accounts. Matthai was even so bold as to write memos on forged checks such as 'Matthai girls' camp' or 'gift for home' in an attempt to validate her fraudulent conduct. In addition, unbeknownst to Heller, Matthai, using Heller's identifying information, opened and made charges upon several credit cards in Heller's name.

"My client was defrauded out of a substantial amount of money over the course of about one year," said Richard H. Gaines, who is representing Heller and TFN. "Ms. Matthai was a trusted employee and friend of Ms. Heller who was hired to manage her business affairs. Instead, she betrayed Ms. Heller's trust by draining more than $180,000 out of her business and personal accounts. This is clearly a case of fraud and identity theft, for which Ms. Heller and TFN have already obtained a $190,000 -- but likely uncollectible -- money judgment against Matthai, who recently filed for Bankruptcy protection in an effort to avoid having to satisfy the Judgment. We are currently pursuing the banks and credit card companies to recover funds removed from Ms. Heller and TFN's accounts to pay the fraudulent credit card bills and other fraudulent charges."

The litigation has been unexpectedly contentious as, contrary to their advertised fraud and identity theft policies, the defendants have forced the removal of this lawsuit to Federal Court, are vigorously defending themselves and have refused to refund to Heller and TFN monies lost as a result of Matthai's fraudulent scheme. Further, some of the defendants have failed even to remove the fraudulent charges from Heller's credit report, causing her further harm.

The defendants each allege that Heller and TFN failed to timely notify them of the fraud. "Ms. Heller and TFN were not aware of the existence of any of the fraudulently obtained credit cards and therefore did not receive, and had no reason to look for, any of the monthly statements that were presumably delivered," said Gaines. "We hear TV commercials every day assuring us that our banks and credit card companies are there to protect us against identity theft, but as Ms. Heller has found out, these policies aren't always all they're cracked up to be."

Ms. Heller reports that she still has faith in our banking and financial systems, and hopes that in light of the growing identity theft problems that our community faces -- as recently exposed on a "Today" show exposé in relation to Chase, MBNA (now a part of Bank of America) and Bank of America -- an amicable resolution to her lawsuit can be reached shortly.

Established in 1981, Greenspoon Marder is a full service law firm with offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Aventura, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. The firm's practice is concentrated in the areas of commercial and residential real estate acquisitions and development; timeshare and fractional ownership development; resorts; zoning and land use; banking and real estate finance; commercial litigation; corporate tax and transactions; labor and employment; estate, probate and elder law; family law; malpractice litigation.

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