Telemarketers Face $1 Million Ruling in Massachusetts Scam

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A Massachusetts judge ordered two out-of-state telemarketing firms and their principals to stop doing business in Massachusetts and pay about $1 million in civil penalties, restitution and fees, state attorney general Tom Reilly said Friday.

The lawsuit alleged that the companies used deceptive telemarketing tactics to scam consumers out of hundreds of dollars, usually by withdrawing the funds directly from their bank accounts.

The judgment is from a lawsuit filed in October against Consumer Grants USA Inc., a Florida company, along with president James T. Lovern and vice president Leo J. Corrigan; Freedom Grants Inc., a Nevada company, and president/director Evelyn Hernandez; and Your Choice Inc., a Wyoming company.

The judgment was entered after five of the defendants failed to answer Reilly's lawsuit. Your Choice answered the suit, and that case is proceeding. The court order requires the five defendants to pay $158,767 in restitution to consumers who were victimized and a penalty of $800,000.

The telemarketers told consumers that they had been approved for a government grant, typically for as much as $8,000, it is alleged. The consumers were persuaded to authorize withdrawals from their bank accounts to cover processing fees of $249 to $259. But the consumers received only a booklet with listings of government grant programs. At least 1,600 Massachusetts consumers were targeted, Reilly's office said, and more than 600 lost money.

The judgment found a pattern of unfair and deceptive practices that violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and the Massachusetts Telemarketing Solicitation Act. Each of the five defendants is barred permanently from conducting any business, telemarketing or otherwise, in Massachusetts.

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