WASHINGTON – A Tampa federal grand jury has charged a Florida man with criminal contempt of a federal court order in connection with the operation of a fraudulent vending machine business opportunity, the Justice Department announced today. The criminal charges form part of the government’s continued nationwide crackdown on business opportunity fraud.
The indictment returned by the grand jury alleges that Mark Miller, 40, of Maitland, Fla., fraudulently marketed and sold business opportunities nationwide under the names Site Selectors Inc., Five-Star Vending Inc., Markland Group Inc. and Break Time Vending. Miller and his representatives allegedly told customers that, for purchase prices of $2,500 or more, they would receive snack and drink vending machines and be able to place them in profitable locations through the use of Miller’s locating services.
Miller was subject to a 2003 federal court order that, among other things, banned him from the sale of business ventures, forbid misrepresentations in the sale of such ventures (should he decide to violate the ban), and required that he monitor his salespeople to ensure they made no misrepresentations. According to the indictment, Miller violated this order by selling vending machine business ventures out of Seminole and Orange Counties in Florida from at least April 2005 through at least April 2007, making various misrepresentations when he sold the ventures, and using an alias to do so. Miller’s violations allegedly cost consumers more than $450,000.
The indictment further alleges that Miller’s customers complained to him and his representatives about not receiving purchased vending machines or locating services. Miller allegedly refused to give refunds and instead told, and instructed employees to tell, complaining customers false stories about the reasons for his not providing the promised business ventures.
"This case stems from an injunction we obtained after the Federal Trade Commission referred a civil case to us involving Mark Miller and a business opportunity he sold called Century Placements that also involved vending machines. The 2003 order in the civil case gave Miller a chance to obey the law, but instead he continued with the same type of illegal scheme," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "When people disobey court orders and cause consumers to lose money, we will not hesitate to seek justice by filing criminal contempt charges. In fact, we have charged over 100 individuals with business opportunity-related felonies in the past five years."
Miller is charged with seven felony counts of criminal contempt. If convicted, Miller faces imprisonment and a possible fine. An indictment is merely an allegation, and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Assistant Attorney General West commended the efforts of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which investigated the criminal case. The case is being prosecuted by trial attorney Mark Josephs of the Civil Division’s Office of Consumer Litigation.