San Antonio, TX asked in Consumer Law, Contracts and Criminal Law for Florida

Q: Can I bring criminal charges against a company for theft for not returning my deposit?

The company is located in Florida; I am located in Texas. I sent in a deposit and 2 days later, I called to cancel. The company confirmed they would return my money but to date, I haven't seen a penny after 30 business days. Can criminal charges be brought on the individual/owner for theft.

3 Lawyer Answers
Jonathan Blecher
Jonathan Blecher
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Miami, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: This sounds like a civil matter, and unless an unreasonable amount of time passes, with no reply, you could consider filing a police report. However, you should exhaust your civil remedies first.

Charles M. Baron and Bruce Alexander Minnick agree with this answer

Charles M.  Baron
Charles M. Baron
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Hollywood, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: This is now a breach of contract (civil) issue, unless it turns out that this was a scammer (one who has the intent to commit fraud). Usually, a scammer/fraudster won't promise to return the money, though I guess it could happen. It's more likely that the vendor is incompetent with its financial management. Your first step should be to WRITE to the company to demand a refund (and mention you also called), and request them to respond in writing within one business day. If you happened to make the payment on a credit card, you can contact your card company to dispute the charge, and the charge will likely be refunded.

If you didn't pay on a card, and a written demand doesn't work, the logical next step depends on how much money you are talking about, as well as on whether you had a written agreement that includes an attorney's fees clause (a clause that says in the event of a dispute, there can be an award of attorney's fees). If it's a substantial amount of $$ and/or there is an agreement with a fees clause, you should consult an attorney. If you're talking about peanuts and there is no fees clause, you could try contacting the Florida Attorney General's office, which takes consumer complaints.

Linda Liang agrees with this answer

Linda Liang
Linda Liang
Answered

A: It sounds like this is a simple contract issue. Do you have record as to the effective cancellation? You only waited for 2 days. Even if your deposit is huge and it would hard to establish criminal intent in light of the facts you provided here. My colleagues are right. You should exhaust your civil remedies before thinking of criminal path.

Charles M. Baron agrees with this answer

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