22 February – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Enrique Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, announced that defendant, Harris Cohen, was sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga in connection with his participation in fraudulent business opportunity sales at a firm called AmeriP.O.S., Inc. Cohen was sentenced to one hundred and thirty-five months’ (135) imprisonment, five (5) years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $16,649,826.94 in restitution.
According to charging documents, Cohen and other defendants engaged in the fraudulent sale of business opportunities through AmeriP.O.S., Inc. Cohen was a founder and principal of AmeriP.O.S., which engaged in the sale of point-of-sale (“P.O.S.”) terminal business opportunities. For a minimum purchase price of approximately $12,000, potential purchasers were told they would receive several P.O.S. terminals, and assistance in establishing, maintaining, and operating a P.O.S. terminal business.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court, the defendants falsely claimed that a business opportunity purchaser, known as a “distributor,” would earn substantial profits when members of the public purchased products, such as pre-paid debit cards, pre-paid phone cards, and pre-paid Internet services, from the distributor’s P.O.S. terminals. Salespeople for AmeriP.O.S. also falsely claimed that the company would help the distributors obtain good high-traffic locations where their P.O.S. terminals would be placed, and that AmeriP.O.S. made money when distributors made money. In reality, however, AmeriP.O.S. made virtually all of its profits by selling distributorships, and offered no services to its customers. Cohen and others fraudulently induced over 1,500 consumers to invest a total of approximately $20 million in AmeriP.O.S. Cohen had been previously ordered to post a performance bond before engaging in the sale of business opportunities, which he did not do.
U.S. Attorney Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Postal Inspection Service. This is one of a series of cases in which defendants have been charged with and convicted of similar schemes involving the sale of fraudulent business opportunities involving Internet terminals, movie rental terminals, “cashless ATM machines”( which supposedly provided a receipt that consumers could covert to cash at the business where the ATM was located), and other worthless “opportunities.” These cases are being prosecuted by Richard Goldberg and Jill Furman, Trial Attorneys, United States Department of Justice, Office of Consumer Litigation, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Gurwitz.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.