She will not get a criminal record for not paying a civil demand letter. As the name implies, it is a civil matter and not a criminal matter. I am not one of the attorneys that recommend ignoring the letter as I have seen at least one firm file a suit. Often the store gets the accused shoplifter to sign a paper admitting to shoplifting and agreeing to pay this and the person is so afraid that they sign documents without reading them. These firms wait a while and then let interest and legal fees accrue from letter writing and calls and then can file suit for a couple of thousand dollars. Best to offer 25% of what they are requesting and they will usually take 50%. Then your sister can move on from this and not worry about being sued later on.
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Was the store Century 21? Michael Ira Asen does lots of work for that store and probably others. He tends to make follow up calls but I've never heard of him or anyone else filing a lawsuit. I think these lawyer make their living off people who are just willing to pay. I tell my clients to ignore him and lawyers like him and I write these lawyers directing them to leave my clients alone and only deal with me. He then tries to call but I ignore his call and then he goes away. If he did sue, it is civil, not criminal, and therefore would not give her a criminal record. If he obtained a judgment, he could get certain costs. As I said above, I've never heard of these lawyers suing.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 385-8015 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.