At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a U.S. district court judge in Miami has temporarily shut down a fraudulent phantom debt collection operation that allegedly deceived Spanish-speaking consumers across the country.

On October 20, the FTC filed a complaint against Centro Natural Corp., Sumore LLC, and several individual defendants alleging that defendants illegally collected over $2 million from consumers.  The court issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants on the same day that the complaint was filed.

In its complaint, the FTC charged that “Defendants use deceptive and abusive tactics to pressure consumers to ‘settle’ debts that consumers do not actually owe and to pay for goods consumers do not seek or want … .  They threaten consumers with harsh consequences, such as arrest or referral to law enforcement, if consumers fail to make the payments that Defendants demand.”

“These defendants deserve a shameful Triple Crown for fraud.  They posed as government officials, used abusive debt collection practices, and ignored the National Do Not Call Registry,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau on Consumer Protection.  “We’re shining a light on fraud affecting every community and we’re pleased that this scheme targeting Latinos has been stopped.”

The FTC alleged that the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, among others.

The FTC continues to take an activist approach in the regulation of the debt collection industry.  Debt collectors should closely monitor federal statutes and requirements to avoid facing an action brought by the FTC.