After hundreds of people, including several Payson residents, reported receiving an alleged mail scam, the attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit.
Attorney General Terry Goddard said Aug. 14 that he has obtained a temporary restraining order to stop Property Tax Review Board, Inc., the perpetrators of the alleged fraud, from mailing out any more solicitations.
The lawsuit also names Property Tax Review Board’s President and CEO Michael McConville and Carmen Mercer, of Tombstone, owner of the Post Office box used in the mailings.
The company was reportedly mailing out official looking documents, claiming the company can reduce a homeowner’s property tax bill for a $189 processing fee.
However, assessed valuations for 2009 cannot be changed since the appeals process for 2009 has ended.
In addition, there is no fee required to file a property valuation appeal with county treasurers’ or assessors’ offices in Arizona.
The Maricopa County Superior Court granted Goddard’s request for a temporary restraining order. This means the company is forced to stop operating and receiving any money from property owners who respond to the mailing.
According to court documents, the document attempts to appear official and contains a “notice number” and deadline for prompt processing.
“This scheme was especially insidious because the deadline to appeal to have your property taxes reduced for 2009 has passed. There was no way the company could fulfill their claims to do so,” said Pete Zegarac, Inspector in Charge of the Phoenix Division Postal Inspection Service.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants led consumers to believe they were conducting a legitimate business when, in fact, they were accepting monies for services that they cannot perform.
The lawsuit seeks to:
• Stop defendants from soliciting any Arizona property owner, by mail, telephone and/or internet to purchase property tax reduction services;
• Require the defendants to refund to consumers who mailed in payment for defendants services
•Pay a fine of $10,000 for each violation of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.
Mercer, who is a well-known activist for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, turned over to U.S. Postal Inspectors the Post Office box and the more than 1,000 responses she has received on Friday.
Mercer claims she was asked to open the Post Office box by a friend, and that she did not know its intended purpose.
Postal Inspectors are working to return the $189 already sent by victims.
Victims seeking restitution should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Information and Complaint section.
Call (800) 352-8431 for more information. Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Attorney General’s Web site, www.azag.gov.