A federal judge has temporarily halted and frozen the assets of an operation that swindled Spanish-speaking consumers across the U.S. by routinely sending unordered or defective products, including a phony weight-loss belt, and then making it difficult, impossible or costly for consumers to obtain relief.
The FTC seeks to permanently stop the illegal practices and make the defendants return money to victims.
Hispanic Global Way, Hispanic Network Connections and several other companies operated by Maria Elizabeth Vera, Rafael Martin Hernandez, Roberto Carrasco Macedo and Maria Gisella Carrasco in TV ads offered English-language courses, cell phones, ladies garments, exercise equipment and the "Molding Motion 5" belt, with no mention of a refund or exchange policies, according to the complaint filed by the FTC.
The defendants are charged with refusing to provide refunds for, or imposing substantial fees to exchange, unwanted or unusable products; misrepresenting that consumers could return products, even after use, for refunds at no additional cost; and making false, unsubstantiated claims about the weight-loss belt, in violation of the FTC Act.
Consumers often received incomplete orders, the wrong or defective products, products of the wrong size or color and products that did not perform as advertised, the complaint alleges. Regarding the purported weight-loss belt, the defendants advertising allegedly indicated that consumers could expect rapid and substantial weight-loss regardless of diet and exercise habits, with no reasonable basis to substantiate such claims.
When consumers called to complain, the defendants routinely placed them on hold for long periods, disconnected them, or otherwise ignored or insulted them, the complaint alleged. If consumers persisted, sales representatives said they could not return or exchange defective products or products the consumers never ordered, or that consumers would have to pay additional fees, ranging from $20 to $299, to do so. The most persistent consumers received promises of refunds or exchanges that never materialized.
"The defendants tricked consumers into purchasing unwanted goods, and then left them holding the bag," said Jessica Rich, director of the Federal Trade Commissions Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Todays announcement should serve as notice to other would-be scammers that the FTC will take action against such conduct."
The full list of defendants includes: Vera, Hernandez, Macedo, Carrasco, Hispanic Global Way Corp., Hispanic Global Way LLC, Hispanic Global Way Venez Corp, Hispanic Global Way Venez 1 Corp, Gold Lead USA Corporation, Sky Advance Choices Corp., Sky Advance LLC, First Airborne Service Trading Corp., Hispanic Network Connections LLC, Fast Solutions Plus Corp and Grand Team Service Corp.