He Took the Money and Ran
August 9, 2009 7:11 AM   Subscribe

What to do about an Outlaw Agent?

I work in a creative field. Let’s say for the sake of discussion I’m a graphic designer. I had an agent who would procure for me the occasional commercial gig. The agent had fallen quite behind on payments and he insisted that the clients had not paid him yet and he could not pay me until they did, which is understandable for a small company. I finally contacted the clients and asked about my invoices. They said the invoices had been paid months before. I left the agency immediately, sent a cease and desist for my works on the agency’s website and an email requesting a full accounting of what the agent owed me. I calculated this to be around $5,000, but it is likely more.
The agent skipped town (NYC) and continues to run the agency remotely. He does not respond to my emails or phone calls. It has been two months.
I would love to recover my money but am feeling this is unlikely at this point since I can’t afford a lawyer. I figure the next best thing would be to see this taken to the next level and I would like to press charges. I know for a fact that this agent has done this to several other designers to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars. I’m not sure what I can press charges for or even how to go about doing it. Do I contact the NYPD? The FBI since he’s conducting his shady business across state lines? Help me, criminal minds of Metafilter!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You already know what to do: hire a lawyer.
posted by billysumday at 7:40 AM on August 9, 2009

New York State Small Claims jurisdiction goes up to $5,000, evidently. You don't need a lawyer for that.

Re: theft charges, perhaps the local authorities' non-emergency line could point you in the right direction.
posted by AV at 8:03 AM on August 9, 2009

Lawyers often will work for a share of what you recover; plus the first consult is usually free. Talk to one.
posted by spaltavian at 9:44 AM on August 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think the NYPD is going to be able to do anything. From what you have said, this sounds civil in nature and you need to speak to an attorney.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2009

See if someone from the NY Attorney General's office can help you. They are good at advocating for individuals.
posted by kathrineg at 10:39 AM on August 9, 2009

I'm not licensed in NY, but I live close enough to have learned something of NY's legal system. The Small Claims court is a good way to go. Last I checked, it cost $15 to file a claim. According to NY attorneys I've worked with, a company is required to hire an attorney to represent itself in Small Claims court. If the company fails to do so, then a default judgment is entered and you can act upon that judgment by filing liens on the company's/agent's assets. The acquisition of a judgment can also allow you to garnish any income - such as income derived from contracts - that might be payable to the agent/company.

If this all sounds really confusing, then, yeah, get an attorney. I know several in NYC; if you want a referral, MeMail me.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:48 AM on August 9, 2009

Small claims is best...if you can figure out a way to locate him. If you can't find him, you (and the courts), won't be able to inform him of his upcoming court date. No joke.

I don't know why you're calling out for "criminal minds" on metafilter. Nothing that you want to do (from this post) sounds criminal...nor does anything he is doing sound criminal (enough to get the NYPD and FBI involved...haha)

Since you seem to be in a field where you know a lot of people who have done business with him...and more importantly ARE DOING BUSINESS with him...you may want to inform them of how he does business.

THAT is the power of networking.

Also, figure out a way that this doesn't happen to you in the future. If someone can steal from you and get away with it...they will.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:02 PM on August 9, 2009

To clarify something hal_c_on mentioned: Small Claims court will send the summons/complaint to the last known address of the defendant. If the summons isn't bounced back to the Court by USPS, then you're good to go forward with the claim. I'm guessing that OP has such an address for the agent/company.

But, yeah, criminal action on this? Not likely, particularly not through the FBI.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 2:32 PM on August 9, 2009

While law enforcement action may not be likely, it's even less likely if you don't report it. It's a small investment of time. Don't count on results, but it's worth doing because it doesn't cost you much.
posted by winston at 9:59 PM on August 9, 2009

If some of your communications with him went through the US mail, this might qualify as mail fraud. That would be a criminal case.

(Not an expert in such things, but once heard a related anecdote.)
posted by suetanvil at 3:55 PM on August 12, 2009

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