United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
JOHN M. LEATO; and LAURINA T. LEATO PLAINTIFF
WESTERN UNION HOLDINGS, INC. DEFENDANTS
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
and Laurina Leato have filed this lawsuit under the diversity
of citizenship statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. They proceed
pro se and have sought leave to proceed in forma
pauperis ("IFP"). The Plaintiffs have brought
this lawsuit against Western Union Holdings, Inc.
("Western Union"). Western Union is incorporated in
Delaware and has its principal place of business in Colorado.
The case is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
to the allegations of the Complaint and attachments thereto,
the dispute between Plaintiffs and Western Union is over
eight "fraud induced" wire transfers from April 12,
2008, until March 26, 2009, totaling $18, 750. All but $500
of this amount was sent to Leonardo Torres in the Republic of
Ghana. Plaintiffs do not indicate why they made these wire
transfers or who Leonardo Torres is.
further allege that Western Union owes it for "two
counts" of identity theft. They maintain they were
victimized "via exposure to scammers and imposter's
found in the Western Union fiasco from March 2008, to March
of 2018." Plaintiffs have submitted as part of Exhibit B
(Doc. 1-2) a copy of a notice dated June 13, 2016, from the
Internal Revenue Service stating that it had verified their
documents and marked their account with an identity theft
indicator. They have also submitted as part of the same
exhibit an identical notice dated July 18, 2016.
allege they have been financially destroyed and on October
31, 2017, had to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs allege
they listed Western Union on their "debtors list of
valid claims" for $18, 750 plus damages in the amount of
$30, 000, 000. Plaintiffs allege that Western Union has
failed to comply with the bankruptcy court order to pay both
the amount of their actual loss and $30 million in
damages. Plaintiffs contend they have been given
the run-around by Western Union with "all other failed
class action efforts."
allege Western Union has violated the Deceptive Practices
Acts of all fifty states; the Illinois Consumer Fraud and
Deceptive Business Practices Act ("Consumer Fraud
Act"); and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and
Consumer Protection Act ("Dodd-Frank").
also indicate there is a process to submit a claim for
remission from a $586 million settlement between Western
Union, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), and
the Department of Justice. Plaintiffs have attached a notice
from the FTC that states:
[A]ccording to the FTC, Western Union has known for years
that scammers were using its system to commit significant
fraud, Western Union kept taking people's money. Probably
billions in fraud-related transfers, since January 2004. But
today, in a global settlement with the FTC and the U.S.
Department of Justice, Western Union agreed to return
$586 million to people and create a strong anti-fraud
So, what kind of evidence was Western Union ignoring? Well,
says the FTC, from January 2004 to August 2015, the company
got more than 550, 000 complaints about money transfers made
for fraudulent lottery and prizes, family emergency
calls, advance-fee loans, online dating and more. There
were its own internal reports, which flagged fraud by some of
its own agents, including many international agents that paid
out fraud-induced transfers from U.S. consumers. And there
were warnings from U.S. and international law enforcement
about the fraud. And yet, the money kept rolling on through.
(Doc. 1-7 at 1).
document attached to the Complaint indicates that a
"remission process" was set up and a website
created, www.westernuntionremission.com. (Doc. 1-6 at 4).
to the website information submitted by the Plaintiffs, the
remission fund applied to victims of an
international consumer fraud scheme. As part of the scheme,
fraudsters contacted victims and falsely posed as family
members in need or promised prizes or job opportunities. The
fraudsters directed victims to send money through Western
Union to help their relative or claim their prize.....If you
believe you were a victim of the fraud described above and
you made a wire tra[n]sfer through Western Union between
January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017, you may be eligible
for remission. In order to be considered for a remission
payment, you will be required to submit a Remission Form
along with any available supporting documentation. Your
petition must be filed ...