Judge Clears Questa’s $62K Ink Debt

The village of Questa could be off the hook for an ink bill of more than $62,800 that appears to have been part of a scam.

Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Backus recently granted a request to dismiss a lawsuit demanding payment of the claimed debt.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year by an attorney representing a California-based debt collection company, alleged Questa had wracked up the substantial tab for toner between July 2010 and September 2012.

But the company that claims to have sent dozens of toner cartridges to the Village Hall during that time has been accused of deceptive marketing practices.

Village officials maintain they did not order the ink in question that began to arrive at their offices in December 2009. The village is said to have only had one printer at the time. Much of the ink was reportedly returned.

An invoice filed as part of the lawsuit suggests the village nonetheless paid $18,970.75 to Imaging Supply Center Inc. before halting payment in September 2010.

The Villa Park, Calif.-based company continued to send toner for another two years, adding the ink to a bill that came to a total of $62,829.50.

Imaging Supply Center Inc. sold its claim for debt by the village to another company in 2013, which filed suit in January seeking to collect.

Mayor Mark Gallegos, who was elected this year, could not immediately recall how much the village had paid but suggested the village’s finance director at the time acted quickly once she realized staff had ordered ink from Imaging Supply Center.

“It was fortunate we caught it before we spent a whole lot more money,” he said.

It is unlikely any money paid by the village will be recouped, as it appears Imaging Supply Center has filed for bankruptcy, according to the mayor.

A lawyer representing the debt collection company, Legal and Debt Recovery Inc., conceded he did not have record of Questa officials ordering toner from Imaging Supply Center.

The lawyer, Bruce S. Garber, nonetheless maintained a formal agreement was not needed to collect the debt. He referred to UPS records indicating village staff continued to sign for packages from Imaging Supply Center Inc. as recently as 2012.

A lawyer representing Questa, Lindsay Drennan, countered that villages cannot be held responsible for debt not based on formal contracts.

Backus agreed, citing decisions by the New Mexico Supreme Court in granting Drennan’s request to dismiss the case.

The Taos News attempted to contact representatives of Imaging Supply Center Inc.

Records indicate the company was incorporated in Nevada July 29, 2009. The company’s registration has since been revoked. Phone numbers for the business and its president, Kevin Deaile, have been disconnected.

Imaging Supply Center has been accused of perpetrating a “toner phoner” scam.

A branch of the Better Business Bureau in Southern California lists the company as engaging in deceptive telemarketing.

In a “toner phoner” scam, swindlers typically send ink to a business unsolicited, followed by a bill, hoping that whoever receives the bill does not notice that no one ordered items on the invoice.

In 2010, a Northern Colorado business was sued over debt to Imaging Supply Center. The business found it had paid $1,100 for toner it had not ordered.

Such schemes have prompted warnings from law enforcement for years. The U.S. Senate held a hearing on “toner phoner” scams in 2000.

In Questa, Gallegos said new procedures have been implemented to more closely track packages received by village staff.

“We’re getting better communication between the department heads and the staff in the office,” he said.


Source: santafenewmexican.com

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