Florida company to refund $78,900 after selling $5 Iowa government certificates for $67.50

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 says.

Centurion Filing Services, under the name IA Certificate Service, sent more than 7,000 mail 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."

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

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

"As a result of the deception, many business owners believed that the letter was from the Secretary of State and obtaining the certificate of existence was necessary," Miller said in a news 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 the company had settled the case, agreeing to refund $62.50 — the full purchase price minus the actual $5 cost of the certificates — to the more than 1,200 businesses that bought them. The total comes to $78,900, according to the press release.

“Centurion misled Iowa businesses and charities during a time when many were already struggling amid the pandemic,” Miller said. “We are pleased to come to a resolution with Centurion that provides refunds to Iowa businesses and charities."

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William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at wrmorris2@registermedia.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa AG Tom Miller, Florida company settle consumer protection suit