United States District Court, D. Maryland
MATTHEW A. BARRETO, Plaintiff,
AFFLUENCE EDU, WELLS FARGO & COMPANY, Defendants.
K. Bredar Chief Judge
Matthew A. Barreto filed the above-entitled complaint on
September 27, 2019, and paid the full filing fee. The
complaint concerns identical allegations raised in Civil
Action GLR-19-1440, which was dismissed on May 28, 2019, for
failure to state a claim. See Barreto v. Affluence Edu,
et al., Civil Action GLR-19-1440 (D. Md. 2019)
(hereinafter Barreto I) at ECF 5.
dismissing the complaint this Court observed in pertinent
Barreto alleges that in April 2019, he enrolled in a seminar
on how to invest in real estate and earn personal profits
that Defendants Affluence Edu (“Affluence”) and
Interactive Trader sponsored. (See Compl. at 2, ECF
No. 1; Am. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 3). Although the
advertisement he saw on television for the seminar stated
that neither experience or money would be required from
attendees, when he went to the May 3, 2019 seminar in
Linthicum, Maryland, he was required to pay a total of
$1194.00 to “participate in a [three]-day workshop for
the training on real estate investment . . . and for training
on stocks, ” which would be held on May 17-19, 2019.
(Compl. at 2-3). Barreto admits he was aware that additional
training would require payment of fees and agreed to pay the
fees by transferring funds from his savings account to his
checking account. (Id. at 3). Because he paid the
fees with his debit card, Barreto assumed the funds would be
withdrawn from his account immediately. (Id.).
On May 11, 2019, Barreto attempted to withdraw cash from his
checking account and discovered that his account balance was
unexpectedly low. (Id.). He states that instead of
debiting his account on the date of the transaction, May 3,
2019, Defendants delayed the withdrawal until May 10, 2019.
(Id. at 4). Barreto alleges that he had to transfer
funds from his savings account to avoid incurring fees.
(Id.). Barreto states that the $1, 194.00 was
returned to him on May 13, 2019, after he disputed the
transaction with his bank. (Id.). The delay in
processing the transaction forms the basis of Barreto's
fraud claim against Defendants, which he considers an
“unfair business practice.” (Id.). As
relief he suggests that Defendants either: (1) allow him to
attend the seminar free of charge and the seminar fees can
later be deducted from “the first profit made”;
or (2) Defendants pay him $200, 000.00 in damages for the
mental anguish he suffered as a result of their delay in
withdrawing funds from his account. (Id. at 4-5;
see also Am. Compl. at 2-4). The Amended Complaint
simply adds Interactive Trader, which Barreto faults for a
portion of the seminar fee withdrawal, as a Defendant. (Am.
Compl. at 2).
To state a fraud claim under Maryland law, the plaintiff must
allege that: (1) “the defendant made a false
representation to the plaintiff”; (2) “the
falsity of the representation was either known to the
defendant or the representation was made with reckless
indifference to its truth”; (3) “the
misrepresentation was made for the purposes of defrauding the
plaintiff”; (4) “the plaintiff relied on the
misrepresentation and had the right to rely on it”; and
(5) “the plaintiff suffered compensable injury as a
result of the misrepresentation.” Belyakov v. Med.
Sci. & Computing, 86 F.Supp.3d 430, 438 (D.Md. 2015)
(quoting Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Albright, 71 A.3d 30,
49 (Md. 2013)).
Here, Barreto's allegations fail to satisfy any of the
elements of a fraud claim. Barreto does not allege that
Defendants made a representation, let alone one that was
false, and he suffered no injury as a result of the delay in
processing his debit card transaction. It is clear from
Barreto's allegations that Defendants committed no
wrongful act. Rather, Barreto simply failed to monitor his
bank accounts to ensure sufficient funds remained in the
account until Defendants, which Barreto agreed to pay,
processed the $1194.00 debit card transaction. And Defendants
returned Barreto's funds when he contested the
transaction with his bank. Thus, the Court concludes that the
Complaint, as supplemented, fails to state a claim and must
Barreto I at ECF 5, pp. 2-5.
there has been a final judgment on the merits in a prior
suit, an identity of the cause of action in both the earlier
and the later suit, and an identity of parties or their
privies in the two suits, res judicata is established.
See Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. Beverley, 404 F.3d
243, 248 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Jones v. S.E.C.,
115 F.3d 1173, 1178 (4th Cir. 1997)). The doctrine of res
judicata precludes the assertion of a claim after a judgment
on the merits in a prior suit by the same parties on the same
cause of action. See Meekins v. United Transp.
Union, 946 F.2d 1054, 1057 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing
Harnett v. Billman, 800 F.2d 1308, 1312 (4th Cir.
1986). In addition, “‘[n]ot only does res
judicata bar claims that were raised and fully litigated, it
prevents litigation of all grounds for, or defenses to,
recovery that were previously available to the parties,
regardless of whether they were asserted or determined in the
prior proceeding.'” Id. (quoting
Peugeot Motors of America, Inc. v. E. Auto Distrib.,
Inc., 892 F.2d 355, 359 (4th Cir. 1989).
only discernible difference between the instant complaint and
the claims raised in Barreto I is the addition of
Wells Fargo as a defendant in this case. The claim against
Wells Fargo is premised on Barreto's assertion that the
delay in debiting his account may have been the bank's
fault. ECF 1 at 12. The addition of the dubious claim against
Wells Fargo does not change the analysis regarding the
applicability of res judicata to the claims asserted. Barreto
is raising identical claims based on the same set of facts,
claims that this court found to be without merit.
Barreto paid the filing fee in this instance, this court may
nevertheless dismiss a complaint sua sponte where the matters
asserted are plainly frivolous. Smith v. Kagan, 616
Fed.Appx. 90 (4th Cir. 2015) (unpublished); see Chong Su
Yi v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 Fed.Appx. 247, 248 (4th Cir.
2014) (same); Ross v. Baron, 493 Fed.Appx. 405, 406
(4th Cir. 2012) (same). In addition, “dismissal prior
to service of process is permissible when a court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over a patently frivolous
complaint.” Smith, 616 Fed.Appx. at 90;
Chong Su Yi, 554 Fed.Appx. at 248 (same);
Ross, 493 ...