TALLAHASSEE, FL – LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against a Jacksonville businessman and his company, alleging the man systematically defrauded consumers and engaged in threats, intimidation, and extortion. Eric Nelson owns and operates W.S.
Industries, a business that provides custom woodworking and refinishing of antique furniture and doors. An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division revealed a pattern of business practices employed by Nelson that are alleged to be patently deceptive and intended to take advantage of consumers.
“This case seems to illustrate a blatant disregard for proper business dealings as well as the single-minded intent to victimize Floridians,” said Attorney General McCollum.
Nelson, 57, would first provide an estimate for completion of a job based on an hourly rate, although consumer complaints revealed the estimates often grossly underestimated the amount of work needed. In addition, the final invoices would outrageously overstate the amount of work or materials provided. The complaint states he would then delay completion until well after promised and when customers eventually became irate, he would respond with new, inflated prices of the projects.
When customers refused to pay the increased price, Nelson threatened to hold their goods hostage until the price was paid. According to consumers, he also resorted to verbal abuse and harassment. In some instances, he advised consumers that their refusal to pay would result in their furniture being either destroyed or sold.
In addition to the threats of property destruction, Nelson also claimed to own and run an adult entertainment business and would often threaten women that he would superimpose their faces on nude models and publish the pictures on his adult website to extort their payments.
Attorney General McCollum called the allegations against Nelson “staggering” and “audacious.”
Nelson informed several customers that when faced with lawsuits or judgments, he merely files for bankruptcy protection to avoid paying restitution. He was arrested in December 2006 by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers and criminally charged by the local State Attorney’s Office for various crimes related to his deceptive and abusive business tactics.
Investigators with the State Attorney’s Office informed the Attorney General’s Office that Nelson’s nefarious business practices continued even after his arrest.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit was filed under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, which permits fines of $10,000 per violation. The Attorney General’s Office has received more than 40 complaints about Nelson’s conduct, each a potentially separate violation.