Kennewick -March 26, 2003- About two dozen Central Washington families who purchased defective computers and educational software from a company that falsely claimed it was associated with local schools have had their money returned.
Attorney General Christine Gregoire traveled to Kennewick to personally present checks -- covering down payments and any monthly payments made toward the computers' purchase -- to the scam's victims.
Many of the families, all of whom are Hispanic with limited English language fluency, were first approached last spring by sales representatives of A+ Computer Program USA. Company salespeople knew the names of children in the families, which schools they attended and what grade they were in.
That, Gregoire said, bolstered the misrepresentation that the company was working with local school districts to market the computers and software to benefit students. The computers and software were priced at about $2,475.
In many cases, victims discovered that the computers failed to work with the educational software, which proved to be incompatible.
Shortly after the Washington state Attorney General's Office became aware of the scam, A+ Computers salespeople and principals had left the area. The Attorney General's Office will continue to attempt to locate them.
"These con-artists took advantage of families who just wanted to provide the best education possible for their children," Gregoire said. "Using trust built upon a lie, they victimized people who could least afford it."
The amounts returned to consumers ranged in amounts from $215 to $2,805. The total amount returned to consumers was $18,591. A total of 24 families were issued checks, 12 in the Wenatchee area and 12 in the Tri-Cities area.
The computers will be donated to Columbia Legal Services and the Benton-Franklin County Legal Aid Society, non-profit organizations that provides civil legal services to low income people in the state.