Mich. security firm case heads to court

Whether a Jackson firm advertised home security system installations without a license will soon be decided in Jackson County Circuit Court.

At the conclusion of a preliminary examination Wednesday, District Judge Michael Klaeren said there was probable cause to bind over the case involving the Total Security Agency, but only by the "barest margin."

Russ Jennings, who is now vice president of the Total Security Agency, was working for Safety Systems, a firm owned by Dan Decker, last year when he responded to a call for a home inspection and a price quote for a security system.

Margaret Clark, the home's owner, said Jennings wore a Safety Systems shirt and never mentioned another company, but in a follow-up e-mail, he gave a quote from Safety Systems as well as All American Security, a Tecumseh firm Jennings also represented.

"I was pretty upset because he had come into my house and given me a quote from a company I didn't ask for," Clark said.

Businesses don't need a license to sell security systems, but they do need a license to install them. Both Safety Systems and All American Security are licensed, but Jennings also gave his e-mail address, which included the name of his company, the Total Security Agency, which was not.

Defense attorney Phillip Berkemeier said giving quotes from two companies may be an ethical issue, but it's not a legal issue and the case should be in civil, not criminal, court.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Peter Langley said the state licenses security firms to protect homeowners from fraud and abuse, and Jennings' firm wasn't licensed, so the case should be in criminal court.

Klaeren called Jennings' actions despicable and while he found probable cause to bind the case over, the standard of proof for prosecution is beyond a reasonable doubt.

After the hearing, Berkemeier said if convicted of the felony, Jennings faces fines of up to $1,000 and four years in prison. Jennings, who also manages Hot Rods, a live-music venue, declined to comment.