Defrauding-the-Consumer-1.jpg (2149×1159)Consumer fraud refers to a wide range of crimes that revolve around purchases, where people pay money for things they don’t want or don’t get what they paid for, both products and services. Fraud against consumers can take place in person, by telephone, or online. It can come in forms of false and misleading advertising, misleading financial transactions, investment fraud, identity theft or identity phishing fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers report nearly $350 million in losses from consumer fraud annually. Anybody who buys things or pays for services can be a victim of fraud, when they find themselves paying for things that are not credibly delivered or when they lose control of their property or cash.

Crimes of Persuasion:

Fraud is related to theft because victims of both have something taken from them. The fundamental difference between theft and fraud is that theft is the taking something by force or by stealth and fraud is the taking of something by purposeful misrepresentation of facts. Most fraud is considered a felony crime and can be punishable by jail terms and fines. When a person is accused of criminal fraud, the case is prosecuted by local, state, or federal prosecutors (depending on the jurisdictional boundary of the fraud). Cases can be prosecuted even if the fraud was not successful and nobody was actually harmed.

However, criminal prosecution does not help the victim of the fraud, unless the sentencing requires the convicted fraudster to provide compensation to the victim, which is rare. To gain compensation, victims of fraud must pursue a civil action, and must prove that the defendant materially misrepresented facts to falsely persuade. The victim must prove that the defendant that he or she knew the claims or statements made as fact, were actually not facts–were misrepresented as facts. Victims must also prove that they suffered damage or loss because of the misrepresentation.

Large Scale Consumer Fraud:

Sometimes, consumer fraud is a major criminal undertaking with many thousands or even millions of victims. Sometimes the extent of the crimes is murky and unclear and sometimes it’s a matter of well-documented public record. When Volkswagen promised

consumers a low emissions diesel engine, announcing special technology, they had actually invented software that deceived the emissions tests. The technical staff that concocted this software committed consumer fraud against the government system of emissions testing and the eleven million members of the public who bought VW vehicles under misrepresentation. The independent West Virginia University that uncovered the deception forum that real emissions from the engines was up to 30 times what was allowed by law. The magnitude of the sentence against the car company and the employee deceivers is yet to be pronounced. Civil lawsuits and the powerful effect of consumer pressure (not criminal sentences) have forced VW into promising generous compensation to customers. However, as of last year, the kind of compensation had not been announced. They may offer cash, by-backs, repairs or replacement cars.

Large-scale consumer fraud has occurred in a wide range of industries.

In finance, Ponzi schemes where investors pour their savings into non-existent enterprises can absorb the savings of many thousands of families.
In areas of medicine or nutrition, products that widely advertise as health aids can contain thirty-times more empty calories than is actually nutritionally advisable.
A lot of attention has been paid to the abuses of telemarketers. Not only are unsolicited sales calls obnoxious to many, but often the products they offer do not meet claimed quality standards, and sometimes lead to identity theft or extortion. The Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act is a set of standards and rules that provide the Federal Communications Commission grounds for criminal conviction for fraud in telemarketing. However, there is no provision for consumer compensation in the act.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a California law firm committed to eradicating unethical business practices that large corporations too often inflict on consumers as well as their own employees and other businesses. Our practice is dedicated to upholding consumer rights.

Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986