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I buy and sell college textbooks for a living and I have a

professor who has sold me...
I buy and sell college textbooks for a living and I have a professor who has sold me several books over the last few months. We live in different states and I haven't been able to personally meet him the last couple of times that he's had books to sell so I've been transferring money via Western Union and he has shipped the books to me. We did this about a month ago and I received the books without any issue. Two weeks ago he contacted me again about selling some more books and every day or two he would say he had more to send me, so I sent him money about 4 or 5 different times over the course of a week and he said he would ship the books the following morning. He put the wrong address on the first package, so it took a little longer than expected but I did receive the first shipment from him on Tuesday. He claims that he put the right address on the other ones (he asked me to resend my address every time), but so far I have only received the first shipment. He said he had tracking numbers for the other shipments and that he would send them to me on Tuesday, but but so far has failed to send me them. Since Wednesday he has not returned 4 phone calls or responded to two text messages from me. He is a younger guy and was very quick to respond when I was sending him money, so I know it's not an issue of him not being near his phone or being technically challenged. He is clearly ignoring my calls. In the past two weeks I've sent him roughly $1,200 (my total costs add up to $1,340 because to the Western Union fees) and I have received three books totaling $135 in value. With the transfer fees included, I'm out $1,200 right now. Most of our communication was done via text message, so I have a record of him saying he would send me the books and he confirms via text message that he has tracking numbers for the packages that I have not received yet. I also have all of the Western Union receipts showing what was sent to him. Can I demand that he reimburse me for $1,200 or else I will take legal action? The first shipment would have taken 3 days if he put the right address, so the other packages should definitely have gotten to me already if they were shipped last week as he has confirmed to me that they were. If he claims that he shipped the books, but they must have gotten lost in the mail, I have text messages from him confirming that he has tracking numbers for those packages which he has not turned over to me yet. What is my best course of action? I know that his department head does not allow professors to sell textbooks, so if I threatened to inform the department head of what's happening unless he reimburses me $1,200 that he has essentially stolen from me, would that be considered extortion?

Thanks for your time,

Tyler Montgomery
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Answered in 9 minutes by:
9/7/2013
LADYLAWYER
LADYLAWYER, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6,536
Experience: Civil; Family; HOA; Landlord/Tenant; Real Estate; Probate; Insurance; Immigration; Wills & Trusts
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LADYLAWYER : Hello Tyler,Thanks for your question! I look forward to helping you today. Please give me a moment to review your question and to answer you.
LADYLAWYER : In the legal sense, extortion involves the obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right. Virtually all extortion statutes require that a threat must be made to the person or property of the victim. Threats to harm the victim's friends or relatives may also be included. It is not necessary for a threat to involve physical injury. It may be sufficient to threaten to accuse another person of a crime or to expose a secret that would result in public embarrassment or ridicule. The threat does not have to relate to an unlawful act. Extortion may be carried out by a threat to tell the victim's spouse that the victim is having an illicit sexual affair with another. Other types of threats sufficient to constitute extortion include those to harm the victim's business and those to either testify against the victim or withhold testimony necessary to his or her defense or claim in an administrative proceeding or a lawsuit. Many statutes also provide that any threat to harm another person in his or her career or reputation is extortion.
LADYLAWYER : Thus, I would not recommend overtly threatening this professor. Although nothing is likely to happen to you if you do, the fact is, it could.
LADYLAWYER : As far as the demand you are seeking to make on him, yes, you may do so. It should be done by certified letter, return receipt requested.
Customer:

I do not want to threaten anyone, but I'm out $1,200 right now.

LADYLAWYER : you can give him 10 days to reimburse you or send you the books.
LADYLAWYER : I realize that.
Customer:

What is considered a certified letter? Does it have to be notarized?

LADYLAWYER : But you asked about whether you could threaten to inform his boss, and under the legal definition of extortion, it isn't prudent.
LADYLAWYER : no, just sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.
LADYLAWYER : The post office can help you do that.
LADYLAWYER : it is just so you have a record of sending the letter.
Customer:

Okay. As far as making threats, it's not something that I want to do, but what if he just says no to my request for a refund or the books?

LADYLAWYER : If he does not pay or send you the books within 10 days (allow 5 extra days for mailing time), then you may sue in small claims.
LADYLAWYER : as far as him being in another state...
LADYLAWYER : Usually, you need to sue a defendant where they live. However, you can try to sue him in your county and state. You will have to serve him at his home or place of work using a private process server. At that point, he could file a motion to dismiss based on personal jurisdiction.
Customer:

Would the fact that I sent the money from my state through Western Union have any affect on jurisdiction?

LADYLAWYER : this just means that he would be saying that the case should be dismissed because you need to sue him where he lives. He only has 20 days from when he is served in order to file the motion to dismiss. If he fails to do so, your case can proceed and you can get a judgement against him,
LADYLAWYER : No, it would not.
LADYLAWYER : You could potentially argue that a contract to purchase the books was formed in your state, but since it was done by text, he could argue the same thing.
LADYLAWYER : Now, although you cannot threaten him with telling his boss, you CAN drop subtle hints like, "it has come to my attention that you are prohibited from selling these books by your department head. In order to save you from getting in trouble with your boss, I am willing to just accept a full refund of the money I have sent to you, plus costs."
Customer:

So that's not the same as making a threat?

LADYLAWYER : So don't overtly threaten him, but make it seem like his boss could easily happen to find out if he doesn't pay you. Do you get my drift?
LADYLAWYER : No, it's not the same thing at all.
LADYLAWYER : There's a fine line.
Customer:

He is actually the one who told me he's not allowed to sell books.

Customer:

Thanks for the advice. The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that I do not want to involve anyone other than the two of us, but he's ignoring my phone calls and I have not received about $1,200 worth of goods that he has agreed to send me. I will go ahead and send the letter, what kind of tone and and phrasing should I use in the letter?

LADYLAWYER : Then word it based on what he told you.
LADYLAWYER : "Because you have told me previously that..."
Customer:

or would you recommend trying to drop hints before sending the letter?

LADYLAWYER : What do you mean by phrasing? You're making a demand for the money, or the books. It should be firm and resolute.
LADYLAWYER : Pit doesn't need to be long. Just a paragraph or so, plus a sentence telling him he has 15 days from the date of the letter (this gives him 10 days plus 5 days mailing time.)
LADYLAWYER : *It
Customer:

And at the end of the 15 days I will take legal action?

LADYLAWYER : Yes.
Customer:

Okay I guess that is it. One last question though - should I go ahead and let him know that I am sending the letter or should I give him more time and mention something about how I'd hate for someone to find out that he's selling his books against the department head's orders? Keep in mind I've gotten zero feedback for two full days now and I have a feeling that would change with either of these actions.

Customer:

Excellent Service by the way.

LADYLAWYER : Texting that you "would hate for someone to find out" what he is doing is probably going to be perceived as a threat. Saying something like, "I am going to have to be forced to call the department head to lodge a complaint" is a much better option.
LADYLAWYER : The difference is, the latter is perceived as you taking the "legal" steps necessary in order to get your problem solved.
Customer:

So would it be better to just go straight to the legal steps by sending the letter or should I give that more time? Not more time to receive the books, those should have arrived earlier this week, but more time for him to get back with me, even though I know he's ignoring my calls and texts?

LADYLAWYER : Two days isn't very long in my opinion. May want to give him until the beginning of the week. Doesn't matter if you tell him about the letter or not. I personally wouldn't.
Customer:

So if it gets to the point of needing to send a letter, just send it without saying anything about it?

LADYLAWYER : Yes.
Customer:

And what would you recommend doing between now and Monday?

Customer:

last question

LADYLAWYER : You can text him and keep calling him. You can say what I suggested about lodging a complaint with the department head.
LADYLAWYER : most likely, he just hasn't gotten to the post office yet
LADYLAWYER : Lets hope.
Customer:

he is kind of screwy, but there's no reason why he can't just let me know that

Customer:

anyways, thanks for your help and have a great night!

LADYLAWYER : My pleasure! If you do not have any further questions at this time, would you kindly leave me a positive service rating before you go? This allows the site to pay me for the time spent with you this evening. Thanks so much!
Customer:

I will definitely do that.

LADYLAWYER : Thanks--have a great weekend!
LADYLAWYER
LADYLAWYER, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 6,536
Experience: Civil; Family; HOA; Landlord/Tenant; Real Estate; Probate; Insurance; Immigration; Wills & Trusts
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