By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Beware Pompano Lawyer Randall Leshin — and His Alter Ego, "Jan Taylor"
You don't know attorney Randall Leshin, but there's a good chance he knows you. He may have left you phone messages. Heck, if you're unfortunate enough to be in debt, he might have taken some of your dough.
If the name doesn't sound familiar, maybe "Jan Taylor" rings a bell. In his message, Jan claims to work for a "nonprofit" called Express Consolidation that wants to help pull you out of the red. Better yet, he says he can do it without collecting any fees and that all the money his debtor clients pay his company goes straight to their creditors.
Express Consolidation, which is based in Pompano Beach and belongs to Leshin, has allegedly called millions of Americans, in states as far away as Hawaii. But that's OK: Express Consolidation is a registered nonprofit, so it's not obligated to comply with the National Do Not Call Registry.
But now the Federal Trade Commission is calling Leshin and his company. The agency filed a complaint in March alleging that Leshin's clients' money only makes a pit stop at Express Consolidation before it's transferred to the coffers of a Leshin-controlled for-profit corporation.
It gets worse. Leshin claims he doesn't collect fees, but the FTC's complaint alleges that Leshin's company doesn't make any payments to creditors until after it has collected the client's first and second months' payments, which it accepts as fees.
A lawyer who engages in telemarketing to rip off the poor and debt-ridden? That's enough sin to light up a scoreboard.
Leshin's legal background may be paying off right now. His case is only nine months old, but there are already 141 docket entries and his attorney has to depose witnesses in Hawaii, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, among other areas that Leshin's company dialed.
And it's not just the FTC that's going after him. A website that delights in avenging the crimes of telemarketers, stopjunkcalls.com, tracked a caller ID number through Quebec and connected it to Leshin. A poster on the site invites readers to call Leshin at his office in Pompano Beach.
'Pipe called that number in hopes of reaching Leshin. Something tells us we're not the first. Leshin's voicemail declared, "If you are calling concerning a Canadian telemarketing number, please be advised that any information you have seen on the Internet is inaccurate and untrue. This law office has nothing to do with that number."
Hmmm. We could try Leshin at home — say, around dinnertime — but at this point it might be easier to just see him in court.
Unfair at Any Speed
Think you know where that splashy sports car has been — you know, the one you purchased at that high-end used car lot? Think again.
Jennifer Gjonbalaj thought her used 2004 Porsche Cayenne, an SUV that retails for $34,000, was in mint condition. Gjonbalaj recalls the folks at Presidential Auto Leasing and Sales in Delray Beach affirming that they knew the snazzy, gold-colored gas-guzzler was in "pristine" condition because the gentleman who previously owned it was a "personal friend" of Presidential Auto's manager.
She bought the car in August 2006. But as Gjonbalaj drove that baby around, something just didn't feel right. Now she's alleging in a lawsuit that the driver's side had been smashed up in a collision involving the previous owner, Thomas Houliares of Coconut Creek.
Houliares traded in the beat-up Porsche for a Mercedes. The suit alleges that Presidential Auto then altered the title to show that Houliares sold the Porsche directly to Mercedes Benz of Tampa, where his replacement vehicle resided, making for a direct trade-in and sales tax savings.
Jim Reed, manager of Presidential Auto, says he doesn't know anyone named Thomas Houliares. But he confirms that Gjonbalaj bought a Porsche Cayenne at the dealership. "I remember the sale — there was no funny business," he assures. Reed declined to go into more detail on the transaction, saying he has yet to see the lawsuit.
Whoever is right in this instance, the case reminds 'Pipe that Florida has long been a fertile area for title fraud. And Robert Murphy, Gjonbalaj's lawyer, says it's only getting worse. There are so many faked auto transactions in Florida now, Murphy says, that "I almost always assume that there's something fraudulent in the title history of a car."
Sometimes, Murphy says, the dealerships are just too lazy to go through the proper channels for title changes. Sometimes they want to avoid the small fees. Sometimes they want to obscure the vehicle's history.
Rental car agencies, for instance, like to dispose of the cars in their fleets after about six months, Murphy says. Many of those vehicles end up being touted as almost-new gems in used car lots.
"A daily rental car has a diminished value right off the bat because it has been driven by people who don't really care about it," Murphy says. "Major dealerships around Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach counties are selling these daily rental cars to consumers each and every day of the week, and they're not disclosing it to consumers," as state law requires.