Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Good Guys': Officials Taking on Consumer Fraud

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Good Guys': Officials Taking on Consumer Fraud

Article excerpt

Dennis Orsey can rattle off settlements for millions of dollars from cases filed by the thousands. But it is the hundreds of letters from grateful citizens that make him proudest of the service provided by the Illinois attorney general's regional office in Granite City.

"Reflecting on 10 years in this office, I'd like to think we've made a difference in people's lives," said Orsey, an assistant attorney general and director of the office.

The office concentrates on consumer-fraud complaints like home-repair scams and telephone-solicitation operations. It has investigated phony charity groups, modeling and employment agencies and environmental cases. There have been criminal prosecutions, including the case of a former deputy coroner who illegally got unemployment payments.

In many cases, jilted customers get all or part of their money back, the defendants pay fines and special penalties to the state, and the court prohibits future activities in the state.

Hefting a three-inch binder full of letters of gratitude, Orsey said, "They're from people who took the time to sit down and write to thank us for helping them. Some of them actually say, `God bless you.' "

From some of the letters from the public, Orsey should be wearing a 10-gallon white hat.

"We feel like the good guys won," wrote one businesswoman who was surprised when Orsey got 70 percent of her money back from an advertising company. "It is comforting to know that Dennis Orsey is `there' righting some of the wrongs in this world and fighting for the `little guy' and small business people like us."

A letter signed by an entire family, including the scrawled handwriting of four children, said the "bad guys" don't have a chance with Orsey on the job. The family said Orsey turned a problem over some property from "a potentially devastating experience into a simple problem with no cost to me or my family."

A man from Edwardsville wrote to thank Orsey for helping end a hassle over a bogus parking ticket from Chicago. "Since my own efforts to protest the charge were ineffectual," he wrote, "I assume the actions of your staff made the difference. Even though this was no doubt a small case for you, relative to other matters, it was a major irritation to me."

Even Sheriff Bob Churchich of Madison County took the time two years ago to thank Attorney General Roland W. Burris for the work by the Granite City office. "As a person who has been in public service for over 30 years, I was much impressed and can really appreciate the efficiency and professionalism of your operation," he wrote.

Orsey said he believes the raw numbers are as impressive as the compliments. The office has opened more than 36,000 cases in 10 years and now averages about 4,000 complaints a year. Judgments in those cases total more than $2.3 million, and the office has collected another $1,638,313 in penalties and fines for the state treasury. …

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