Bad Business Checks

(WSVN) - It would be hard to find someone who has never been paid with a check, so what can you do if the check bounces? Is writing a bad check to someone a crime? That’s a question one South Florida man has for Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It’s a very clever idea: little pixel chips you can put on a back pack, a cellphone case, almost anything.

Leo Morales, got bad checks: “And you create your own designs. One day they can do Minecraft, the next day they can do Pokémon. You can customize whatever you want; name, letters, numbers.”

Leo Morales thought they were such a great idea, he opened kiosks at Sawgrass Mills and Dadeland Mall to sell the U-Pixels.

Leo Morales: “It’s a very fun project to do, but also it is very tiring and very stressful.”

Leo’s solution? Get a business partner.

Leo Morales: “So long story short, we partnered up so I can expand the business.”

Leo’s partner was Shayan Shahab — an aspiring MMA fighter, who likes to post online about his cars, girlfriends and guns.

Leo Morales: “The partnership started off really good.”

But then like many business partnerships, things turned sour … over money.

Leo Morales: “We started noticing the money was being missing from the account. We would wake up in the morning and the account would be in zero.”

Shayan then agreed to buy Leo out. Leo videotaped the negotiation.

Leo Morales: “And he was agreeing to pay those $25,000 on time with no hesitation. The first check was for $1,500 and then there was a check left for $23,000.”

The checks were postdated, one for three months later. The other for a few days later and that’s when Leo went to the bank.

Leo Morales: “And when I go to deposit the check, the lady in the teller tells me, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t cash this check for you because the account has been closed.'”

Realizing he wasn’t getting a dime for his share of the business, Leo headed to the mall to reclaim some property, but…

Leo Morales: “We get a call from the mall saying the security had gone by to look at the kiosk in Sawgrass Mall and that the kiosk was empty.”

Dadeland Mall kiosk was stripped as well. Leo called his former partner asking for his money.

Leo Morales: “He said good luck getting the money from me.”

Police were called. An officer wrote the report and told Leo it might be a civil matter, but Leo needed to see if the state attorney wanted to file charges. Then Leo went to see Shayan to try to get his money.

Leo Morales: “And what he did was he lifted up his shirt, and showed me he had a gun under his shirt and said, ‘You remember who I am?'”

Leo lost his business and he is out $25,000. Howard, are the bad checks a crime or a civil matter?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Both. Normally, you cannot prosecute someone for a post dated check under the worthless check statue, but if there was an intent to defraud, meaning the person who wrote the check closed the account or had no money in the account, then you can prosecute. If the police won’t arrest the check writer, contact the state attorney’s office and meet with them to file charges.”

We called Shayan Shahab … he told us he never signed the checks he gave Leo and the contract to buy the business was not valid because it was not notarized. He then said he wanted to meet with us to clear things up. We showed up … he did not.

When we got in touch with him, he said, ‘Sorry, I have business to take care of. Have a good day,’ and wouldn’t talk to us anymore.

Howard Finkelstein: “This case was a little complicated because the checks were postdated. First of all, don’t accept a post dated check. And also, any check that bounces can be considered a crime, no matter how much the check is written for. And if the state attorney decides not to prosecute, you have a sure fire winner in civil court.”

Leo is planning to meet with the state attorney to pursue criminal charges against his former partner, and Leo is convinced he will eventually get his money back.

Howard Finkelstein: “I know the world goes around in a circle. Sooner or later, it’s going to get to him. On my end, I’m happy, I’m successful.”

If you have a winner in civil court for a bad check, why try to get someone prosecuted for it? Because if they are convicted of writing a bad check, a judge will order them to pay restitution. And it’s easier to collect restitution than a civil judgment because judges have ways to enforce their orders.

A problem got you bouncing around? Ready to finally cash in? Check with us. We can’t pay restitution, but we can resuscitate your case. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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