The Federal Trade Commission has begun mailing checks totaling over $830,000 to almost 3,500 consumers who fell victim to a telemarketing debt collection scheme targeting Spanish-speaking consumers for payment of bogus debts. Centro Natural Corp, Sumore LLC, and several individuals operated a telemarketing debt collection scam that used international callers who claimed to be government officials and threatened consumers who refused to pay with arrest, legal actions, and immigration investigations. The telemarketers also pressured consumers into paying for unwanted products by telling the consumer the products would settle their debts.
Consumers who lost money will receive an average payment of $240.95.
The FTC filed the Complaint in October 2014. In June 2015, the FTC settled with the defendants, and the district court entered stipulated final orders that included money judgments and permanent injunctions that ban them from the debt collection business and telemarketing activities. The settlements imposed nearly $6.8 million in judgments, which were suspended upon the transfer of about $777,000 in assets, including real estate located in Florida. The full judgment would be due if any of the defendants are subsequently found to have misrepresented their financial status. The receiver filed his last status report in July 2016.
“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, at the time of the filing of the Complaint. “We’re shining a light on fraud affecting every community and we’re pleased that this scheme targeting Latinos has been stopped.”