Iowa AG Florida company Tom Miller settles consumer protection lawsuit

A Florida company that offered to sell official state documents to Iowa businesses at a 1,000% markup will pay nearly $80,000 in refunds, Attorney General Tom Miller said.

Centurion Filing Services, as IA Certificate Service, has mailed over 7,000 advertisements to Iowa business owners. The letters, which appeared to be official invoices, told businesses to pay $67.50 to receive an “Iowa Certificate of Existence.”

It’s a real document, but it doesn’t cost $67.50. Businesses can get them directly from the Iowa Secretary of State for $5. And certificates are only needed in certain circumstances, such as when applying for certain loans.

“As a result of the deception, many business owners believed the letter was from the Secretary of State and that it was necessary to obtain the certificate of existence,” Miller said in a press release.

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Miller’s office sued Centurion, which is based in St. Petersburg, and owner Dean Marshlack in November 2020. On Wednesday, Miller announced that the company had settled the case, agreeing to reimburse $62.50 – the price of total purchase minus the actual $5 cost of the certificates — to the more than 1,200 companies that have purchased them. The total comes to $78,900, according to the press release.

“Centurion misled Iowa businesses and charities at a time when many were already battling the pandemic,” Miller said. “We are thrilled to have reached a resolution with Centurion that reimburses Iowa businesses and charities.”

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William Morris covers the courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at [email protected], 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.