Iowa files consumer fraud lawsuit against 'toner pirates'

Suit alleges companies portray themselves as regular supplier to Iowa businesses, libraries

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Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against three Orange County, Calif., businesses and their owners, alleging that they placed calls and sent invoices designed to trick Iowa libraries and businesses into paying exorbitant prices for photocopier toner they never ordered.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that Central Supply Solutions, of Orange, Calif., and owner Brittany Hertsch; Elite Supplies of Irvine, Calif., and owner Krystle Lester; and Central Supply Center of Orange, Calif., and owner Sandra Steinmetz operate what are commonly called “toner pirate” schemes.

He said toner pirates deceptively solicit commercial entities, including by misrepresenting that they are an entity’s regular toner supplier.

According to the lawsuit, libraries, care facilities, professional offices, and other small businesses across Iowa have complained to the Consumer Protection Division after being targeted by the three operations. In addition to a request for a permanent injunction, Miller said the consumer fraud lawsuit seeks refunds to Iowa victims, and civil penalties high enough to deter toner pirates from returning to the Iowa marketplace.

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