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Federal judge drops charges in online scam case

Two consumers filed federal complaints against an Internet-based company and associated individuals for allegedly creating fraudulent digital checks in a payday lending scheme. However, the judge recently dismissed many of the accusations against the company and their supposed accomplices in a Northern California federal court. The individual defendants' motions to dismiss were granted based largely on their specific involvement in the Internet crime scheme.

According to the complaints filed against employees of Zaazoom Limited, multiple banks and other associated companies, the defendants were accused of violating the terms of the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act. The defendants not directly employed by Zaazoom were apparently complicit in helping payday loan companies obtain private banking information from remotely-created checks.

As it turns out, the charges leveled against many of the defendants did not stick. The federal judge indicated that many of the defendants were just performing the duties of their jobs and were not trying to deceive consumers. Furthermore, the court ruled that there was not "sufficient evidence" against those accused to demonstrate that they were aiding Zaazoom in their deceptive practices. However, the court stipulated that the charges can be amended if evidence surfaces that prove the defendants were indeed complicit in defrauding consumers.

Additionally, Zaazoom employees were able to dismiss charges that they were in violation of the Wiretap Act, because none of the information acquired by the company was intercepted while being communicated between other parties. The Zaazoom-employed defendants are still on trial for charges based on the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act.

Effective legal defense is largely responsible for so many federal charges being dropped in this case. The plaintiffs tried to cast a wide-net to punish numerous parties related to Zaazoom, but their claims fell short of the burden required to prove that they were complicit in the alleged wrongdoing. Without effective arguments demonstrating that many people included in this case should not be charged, those individuals would still be facing the prospect of federal sentences. At the same time, the defendants directly connected to Zaazoom should focus their attention to the evidence and whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prove they knowingly tried to commit Internet fraud against their customers.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Internet Scam Claims Fall Short in San Fran," Philip A. Janquart, March 23, 2012

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