400,000 people complained to the government about fake IRS calls and other imposter scams last year.
The scammers behind the schemes make it tough to track them down. They mask caller ID info and tangle the money trail by using runners to pick up wired cash here in Tampa Bay and around the country.
In a Federal Trade Commission complaint, the government accused Palm Harbor attorney Joel Treuhaft and his company PHLG Enterprises of collecting $1.5 million in wired funds. The money paid by 3,000 victims, all targets of phone scams that originated from India.
The FTC said, "Treuhaft told the runners to pick up payments as soon as possible, so that consumers would not have time to cancel or reverse the money transfer."
Joel Treuhaft refused to answer our questions in person or by phone.
Tampa attorney Todd Foster represented Treuhaft in the federal case. He too turned down an interview request sending this statement instead:
The federal case settled in February with Treuhaft banned from working with telemarketers.
In return, the FTC suspended the $1.5 million judgment "based on the defendants inability to pay."
Now the Florida Bar has launched its own investigation.
Attorney David Ristoff spent years prosecuting lawyers accused of wrong doing for the Florida Bar. He says the investigation will take into consideration a number of factors including past discipline.
We found no prior disciplinary record for Treuhaft. If the bar finds probable cause of wrong doing he could face anything from a public reprimand to a license suspension