District Court Halts Telemarketing, Robocalls Scam

Court grants summary judgment at the request of the Federal Trade Commission, which filed charges against several defendants for violations of the FTC Act in 2018.

5/24/2019 8:00 AM

District Court Halts Telemarketing, Robocalls Scam

A U.S. district court in Florida has granted a summary judgment against individuals involved in illegal robocalls and telemarketing at the request of the Federal Trade Commission.

According to a news release from the FTC, the district court granted a summary judgment against two individuals, approved six settlement agreements involving 11 defendants and entered a default judgment against the remaining seven defendants, officially ending a telemarketing scam where the defendants falsely claimed to represent Google, falsely threatened businesses with removal from Google search results, falsely claimed that they could associate keywords with these businesses and falsely promised first-place or first-page placement in Google search results.

The defendants named as part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts against illegal robocalls include Dustin Pillonato and Justin Ramsey, who are to pay $3.3 million as part of a summary judgment.

The FTC’s complaint from May 2018 alleged the defendants had no relationship with Google yet claimed to be “data service providers” for Google or “authorized Google My Business agencies.” The defendants also barraged consumers with robocalls. The company’s telemarketers falsely told consumers who pressed “one” that they could only avoid removal from Google search results by paying the defendants a one-time fee ranging from $300-$700. Otherwise, they said these businesses would be labeled “permanently closed.”

In July 2018, the FTC amended its complaint to add two counts for violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, because the defendants robocalled more than 74 million consumers and called more than 14 million numbers on the national Do Not Call (DNC) Registry.

The court entered judgments against Pillonato and Ramsey, as well as a default judgment against Aaron Michael Jones, Vincent Yates, Pointbreak Media, LLC, DCP Marketing, LLC, Modern Source Media, LLC, National Business Listings, LLC, and AllStar Data, LLC. The judge also approved settlements with Daniel Carver, relief defendant Stephanie Watt, and relief defendant Jennefer Ramsey, according to a news release from the FTC.

Pillonato and Ramsey are banned from telemarketing; using remotely created checks to debit consumers’ accounts, marketing, promoting, or selling search optimization products or services, according to the FTC. The order against Jones and several defaulting defendants includes the same conduct relief as imposed on Pillonato and Ramsey

ACA International has consistently expressed the need for consumers to receive calls from businesses using automated technology, such as debt collectors, schools or health care providers, while regulators enforce illegal calls by bad actors and develop preventative measures with phone carriers to stop those calls.

At the same time, ACA has noted in communications with regulators that “unwanted calls” may also be necessary, and it may be in a consumer’s best interest to have access to a legal informational call with pertinent information— even if it’s not something they look forward to receiving.

When there are admissible facts evidencing egregious conduct, ACA supports law enforcement efforts to target bad actors, stop illegitimate debt collection activity and safeguard consumer rights by removing known violators from the financial marketplace. ACA has worked consistently with the FTC and other regulators to help them understand the complex issues that legitimate debt collectors face, and takes pride in its frequent and varied industry compliance educational services and offerings in support of the overwhelming majority of legitimate debt collectors who operate lawfully, take consumer protection seriously and play a unique and much-needed role in our credit-based economy.

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