FTC and Hispanic telemarketers settle
The Federal Trade Commission has banned Remote Response Corp. and its co-owners Alberto Salama, Samuel Salama, Elias Salama and Joseph Bensabat, and German Espitia, president of Instant Way Corp. from telemarketing and selling goods and services in the future.
The fraudsters were charged with deceiving Spanish-speaking consumers through their marketing of pre-approved, advance fee MasterCards, free ATM and phone cards, and a free-trial membership in a discount health plan.
The defendants will pay cash and the proceeds from the sale of assets, including condominiums and real estate investments, to settle the charges. Each company will pay $4,164,558.
According to the FTC, the defendants defrauded more than 30,000 consumers out of more than $4 million. They ran nationwide advertising on Telemundo, Telefutura, Galavision, and other Spanish-language television networks.
For prices ranging from $138 to $200, the defendants promised customer a pre-approved, Amerikash Mastercard and a number of incentive items, including free ATM cards, phone cards, and vacation vouchers. The defendants' telemarketers also offered a free-trial membership in the Amerikhealth discount health plan.
The FTC says that consumers never received a MasterCard, and instead received only some or none of the free items that were initially being offered. In addition, the items consumers received often did not even work.
The defendants failed to provide consumers with a free-trial period û as was promised. They also improperly charged consumers' credit cards or bank accounts for the discount health plan.
"The Court's orders also prohibit defendants from making misrepresentations about the goods and services they sell, and from charging consumers improperly," the FTC statement says. "For example, the defendants are prohibited from misrepresenting that consumers will receive goods or services, that they will receive them free of charge, or that they bear certain characteristics or can be used in a particular way.
"The defendants also are prohibited from misrepresenting the terms and conditions of free-trial offers. In connection with obtaining payment for æfree-to-pay' offers, the orders prohibit the defendants from improperly debiting consumers' bank accounts or charging their credit or debit cards," the FTC statement continued. "For example, they are prohibited from charging consumers when consumers reject a sales offer; before a free-trial period expires; after consumers have cancelled; or when defendants have thwarted consumers' ability to cancel. Finally, the defendants cannot make recurring electronic fund transfers from a consumer's bank account without obtaining the consumer's authenticated authorization and providing a copy to the consumer."