The operators of a fraudulent collection scheme agreed to be banned from the collection business and telemarketing, settling Federal Trade Commission charges that they bilked millions of dollars from Spanish-speaking consumers throughout the U.S. by demanding that they pay bogus debts.
The settlements stem from an FTC complaint filed last year against defendants Centro Natural Corp., Sumore LLC, Carolina Orellana, Damian Biondi, Jessica Anzola, Javier Sumbre and Susana Sumbre, alleging that they threatened consumers with lawsuits, arrest and immigration status investigations if they failed to make payments on phony debts.
The FTC charged that since at least 2011 the defendants cold-called consumers and threatened them with harsh consequences, such as arrest, legal actions and immigration status investigations, if they failed to make large payments. The defendants sometimes claimed to be court or government officials. They demanded that consumers pay them to settle phantom debts that typically ranged between $3,000 and $9,000.
The complaint also names Bionore Inc., Jager International Inc., Allianza Inmobiliaria Corp. and Jorge Sumbre as relief defendants who profited from the scheme.
Under the settlement, Sumore and the individual defendants are banned from collection activities and telemarketing and they are permanently prohibited from making the misrepresentations alleged in the complaint and material misrepresentations about any product or service. These defendants and the relief defendants are also barred from selling or otherwise benefitting from customers' personal information.
The settlement imposes judgments on the defendants totaling nearly $6.8 million, which are suspended upon the transfer of approximately $776,000 worth of assets, including Florida real estate.
In each case, the full judgment will become due immediately if the defendant is found to have misrepresented his or her financial condition. The order against relief defendant Allianza Inmobiliaria imposes a $172,000 judgment against the company.
"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 FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Were shining a light on fraud affecting every community, and were pleased that this scheme targeting Latinos has been stopped."
The FTC's complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.