What happens if I ignore a 'settlement fee' letter from lawyer for shoplifting?

A friend went to exchange a damaged item without a receipt. He couldnt so he decides to repurchase the item, & return the damaged one with new receipt. First he considers theft, but at the end he puts the item among the other things to pay. Somehow it doesn’t get scanned & he doesnt pay for it. While leaving the store to go get the original damaged item, he was stopped by mall security & taken to the backroom. There was no charges/arrest, but he was banned from the mall for a year. He was told if they find a damage, he will receive a letter. He received one from a lawyer for settlement fee for $595 due 10 days. The item was fully recovered & no damages (worth $40). Can he fight this? He is a student living on loan, he doesnt have the money. Can he ignore it? Will there be criminal charges?

Waterloo, IA -

Attorney Answers (1)

Colin Christopher Murphy

Colin Christopher Murphy

Criminal Defense Attorney
Answered

Iowa law allows merchants to recover the reasonable costs ssociated with theft prevention. The merchant would have to file a small claims lawsuit to recover the costs if they are not paid voluntarily through a settlement. Some merchants will file a small claims action. Some will not.

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